NEWS

Autistic boy's mother feels pressured by school

05/03/2012 05:56 EDT | Updated 07/03/2012 05:12 EDT

A Saint John mother says she felt pressured by teachers and school administrators to double her autistic son's Ritalin dose to keep him in school.

Amanda Edgett says Princess Elizabeth School is also forcing her 10-year-old to walk home for lunch every day – a 40-minute round trip.

She said she believes the school wants her son, who’s been diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome and attention deficit disorder, drugged or worn out from exercise to control his behaviour and ensure he doesn't disturb other students.

“I felt like he would have been kicked out,” she told CBC News.

Michael Butler, the superintendent of School District 8, said schools don't make decisions about increasing or changing medication, that’s a medical decision.

A pediatrician was present at the meeting where doubling the Edgett’s son’s medication was discussed as an option, he said.

Teachers can give feedback to parents on whether there's been a change in a student’s behaviour, said Butler.

He could not say whether Edgett’s son was told to walk home for lunch, but said it could have been raised as an option if it was felt it might be beneficial to the boy to have a break from school.

He wouldn't be surprised, he said. They have various strategies for different students.

Inclusion policy questioned

Catherine Derry, who’s running as a candidate in the May 14 district education council election, says Edgett’s story will sound familiar to many parents of autistic children, such as herself.

Derry hopes Edgett’s story will help send the message that the province's inclusion policy needs help.

“So they can understand how it's not working for those parents and it's not working, like I said, for the average parent, too,” she said.

Derry is running against three other people for a spot in subdistrict six of the new Anglophone South district education council.

The Department of Education’s inclusion model recently came under fire from a high-profile autism advocate

Harold Doherty, who has an autistic son and runs a blog dedicated to autism issues, calls the model “extreme” and argues the classroom isn’t the right setting for every child.

Education Minister Jody Carr has said the provincial government will be enhancing evidence-based support services for autism in schools.

The provincial government's inclusive public education is based on three principles:

- Public education is universal

- Public education is individualized

- Public education is flexible and responsible to change

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