Speech from the Throne Disappoints Parents of Children with Developmental Disabilities
For decades parents of children with developmental needs have been advocating for their right to choose an inclusive education. An inclusive education where children with developmental disabilities are welcomed into the regular classrooms of their neighbourhood schools or their parents’ schools of choice. An inclusive education where children with developmental disabilities are supported to learn, form friendships, and fully participate in the life of their school, where teachers have the support in their classrooms to modify the curriculum and adapt instruction to the benefit of every student, where students are encouraged to support each other’s learning and trained educational assistants are present as needed, and where there is support for effective home-school communication.
Trish Bowman, Inclusion Alberta’s CEO said, “This week’s Speech from Throne ignored the thousands of parents and children with disabilities for whom a quality inclusive education continues to remain elusive or non-existent. We know far too many parents who felt they were forced to educate their children who have developmental disabilities at home because their choice for an inclusive education was not honoured or the school would not provide the needed supports. Now the Alberta government, by not holding school districts accountable and ensuring the choice of an inclusive education that is appropriately supported, is enabling more parents to be forced into home schooling. This is not honouring parental choice.”
Parents who truly wish to home educate their children with developmental disabilities should be able have that option but supporting their choice should not be done by sacrificing or negating the choice of parents who want the benefit of an inclusive education. Specialized services at home for a few cannot make up for the lack of choice that continues for many.
Monic Braat, Inclusion Alberta’s President and a parent of a son with developmental disabilities, stated, “While there are schools and school districts that are committed to respecting a parent’s choice for inclusive education this is far from universal. In fact, that commitment can be inconsistent from classroom to classroom or school to school as there is no government commitment to ensuring parental choice and quality inclusion. The government’s failure to value and support all parental choices equally will likely lead to more children with developmental disabilities being marginalized and isolated from community and friends.”
When Alberta’s finances are improving now is the time for the government to be inclusive in its agenda from restoring the indexing of AISH to reducing waitlists for supports for children and adults with developmental disabilities and their families to ensuring adequate supports and funding are provided.