We should do more to help children with special needs

We should do more to help children with special needs We have spent the past few weeks eagerly anticipating a new budget for Yukon. As parents of two children with special needs, we are painfully aware of the services needed for many Yukon children. Two y

We have spent the past few weeks eagerly anticipating a new budget for Yukon. As parents of two children with special needs, we are painfully aware of the services needed for many Yukon children.

Two years ago, we – and our daughter’s pediatrician – requested an educational assistant to work with her in her kindergarten classroom. At that time she was on a wait-list to be assessed by mental health workers.

That assessment was finally done this spring. We are yet to receive the paperwork that states that she is on the autism spectrum, having presented with Asperger’s.

To date, she is in her Grade 2 classroom with a “floater” EA. Most of the time, this works. Sometimes, she has a meltdown and there is no one who can take the time to focus their undivided attention on her. (Meltdowns might be prevented if there were someone there to do so.)

On those occasions, the end result is that she has to come home to spend the afternoon without the social interaction with her peers and the classroom lessons she desperately needs. On one occasion, she fled from gym class to be found an hour later hiding in the school. We won’t even think about what could have happened had she chosen to run out of the school. She did so on one occasion but was with another child and they hid in the bushes.

We could go on and on with examples of times when our daughter’s well-being has been put at risk – not because the staff of the school are not trying their best – because she does not have the one resource that would ensure her safety and enhance her educational experience: an educational assistant.

Our youngest is four years old. He was born with Erb’s palsy and has been assessed on the autism spectrum. He has been a client of the Child Development Centre since infancy. They provide him with social interaction through a special needs preschool program, one-on-one play therapy, speech therapy and physiotherapy.

The CDC is his best chance to be “school-ready” when he reaches kindergarten age. These services are not available during the summer months. This means that our son, along with all the other children who benefit from the excellent services provided by the staff of CDC, is “playing catch-up” every September when he is re-introduced to programs.

This brings us to the crux of this letter. The Yukon Party has announced that it will provide $100 for school supplies for every child in Yukon. While there are many parents who cannot afford school supplies, those who are on income assistance do receive extra money in August for these purchases.

We are confident that parents for whom the purchase of supplies does not present a hardship will agree that we can do better. We see the handout as a blatant attempt to “buy” votes which tends to be the “go-to” action of conservative governments who see the writing on the wall in an election year.

Our message to the Yukon Party is that they must put that money to much better use. The number of education assistants could be increased throughout the territory. The CDC could be funded in such a way as to provide much-needed programming in the summer months. The number of mental health workers could be increased to ensure that no more children sit on a wait list for over two years in order to get an assessment that all professionals agree is better done at the youngest age possible.

Governing is a matter of choices. This government has chosen to put its electoral needs ahead of the very real needs of Yukon children.

Richard Gartner

and Cassie Larocque

Whitehorse

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