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Autism advocacy group loses confidence in ACT Government

By bobb - 22 September 2015 6

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Advocacy group Speaking Out for Autism Spectrum Disorder (SOfASD) has passed a no confidence motion in Minister Joy Burch and the ACT Government. 

SOfASD advocates for autistic people in the ACT, including students diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

SOfASD members lost confidence in Minister Burch after she claimed that the recent abuse of an autistic student in an ACT school was an isolated incident, and the result of one person’s actions.

The former disability discrimination commissioner has repeated on several occasions that this was not an isolated incident (see here, here and here). The ASD community in Canberra is aware of numerous other incidents, but lacks faith in the ACT Government’s ability to address them.

Senate committees do not inquire into an “isolated incident”. The Senate Education and Employment Committee, currently inquiring into students with disability in the school system (see here), was told of other events like the ACT Minister’s so-called “isolated incident” (see here and here).

Some autistic students now refuse to go to school because of how they have been treated.

Many autistic children need clinical behaviour support but the ACT Government has a long standing policy of not using behavioural science, or applied behaviour analysis, to address risky or challenging behaviour in autistic children in the ACT.

The government mislead the Assembly. To our knowledge, the government never corrected the record … nor apologised for misleading it.

The ACT Government’s therapy assistant program and various other services do not support autistic students with behaviour challenges. Autistic students are excluded from this and other disability services programs – their needs are not addressed.

A desperate and inappropriate action from one individual is a very predictable response to the broken system that is administered by the Education Directorate and is the minister’s responsibility.

The ACT Government brought together an expert panel, but the ACT Government’s panel are the very people responsible for training teachers, who advised on the ACT education system and who monitor services for children in the ACT. They are the architects of the system that they are now reviewing. They are not independent. This is a very clear conflict of interest.

SOfASD members have no confidence in the ACT Government’s review process into this matter. The Government is already filling a position. Apparently, it is not even waiting for the outcome of its expert panel review. The position does not require qualification or experience in behavioural science … and the job does not involve direct help for autistic students.

The Minister is using the expert panel as an excuse for not engaging with stakeholders until its too late. She already decided the outcome. She must hope that this latest publicity firestorm has passed.

Some members of the ACT community who are affected by ASD have expressed no confidence in the minister and the ACT Government over these matters, which is something politicians themselves are unlikely to achieve.

Bob Buckley,
Chair, Speaking Out for Autism Spectrum Disorder

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6 Responses to
Autism advocacy group loses confidence in ACT Government
HenryBG 6:35 am 30 Sep 15

london said :

No child who has tendencies towards violent outbursts should be in mainstream schools..

Exactly. Schools need to be a safe place for students to learn – a policy of zero tolerance towards violent behaviour needs to be zealously enforced in order to improve the education system’s failure to provide a properly supportive learning environment.

All the cage incident proves is that schools are unable to provide the safe learning environment that all children deserve because they are apparently unable to exclude children who are a danger to their peers.

bigred 7:55 am 26 Sep 15

Well this mob sure are a great promotion for making an investment in private education if you can afford it.

What Andrew Barr is missing is that while his Government may have some great frameworks in place, the people he has tasked with delivery are not delivering thus eroding their political capital. Do not think Education is the only place where we are being let down, it is just that the literal cage is far more threatening that hypothetical cage.

If Hanson and co actually pick up that the big sleeping issue in the next ACT election is compromised delivery arising from PP governance arrangements he might be on a winner. I have told his foot soldiers this a couple of times – not so sure they get it.

london 8:32 am 25 Sep 15

How many people did the autistic boy abuse? He is the only victim spoken about in all this saga. What about his victims? Should students and teachers just put up with this and take it in their stride? I think not. It is the fault of the Education Department and the Government that there are not enough places available in special need schools. No child who has tendencies towards violent outbursts should be in mainstream schools. It is not fair for anyone. We ask why our schools are falling behind overseas standards and blame teachers rather than place the blame where it should be. Look at student behaviour and parenting skills before laying the blame at other peoples doorsteps.

Big_Ed 11:18 pm 24 Sep 15

The plot thickens, Burch held discussions with the Director-General, Diane Joseph, of the Directorate to determine which findings from an inquiry which would be released to the public. (see: http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/joy-burch-discussed-partial-release-of-boy-in-cage-inquiry-with-directorgeneral-20150923-gjt57s.html) What next, we find that the Expect Report was written by the Directorate’s Assistant Manager for HR?!?

What is clear is that no one buys for a moment the pile of horse doo the Directorate is selling. Bob Buckley, SOfASD, Graeme Innes, the ACT AEU, even Blind Freddy and the drover’s dog know this stinks – stinks of lies, cover-ups and a depraved organisational culture which appears to work networks of cliques and mobs to appoint fools to high posts and to head schools.

The AEU has played its part in sustaining this beast (it’s common knowledge amongst teachers that a strong union profile is a prerequisite for promotion) but here we have the union out of step. Why? well you don’t have to be a conspiracy theorists to pick up that the union is angry because their chump took the fall for higher brass.

We all know the fish rots from the head and thus heads should roll. Burch, Joseph, the head of People and Performance Branch, the School, Network Leaders, the entire upper echelon of the Directorate if need be: bring down the axe and flush out the rot.

Cages for kids, it’s medieval, it’s humiliating, it’s child abuse! and it’s from the people who are responsible for teaching our kids. Which leads one to wonder, what the heck are they teaching them?

Heads should roll, not eyes.

Affirmative Action M 3:33 pm 22 Sep 15

This story was a non event & a massive media beat up. In my view whilst a “cage” is not ideal it may be an appropriate and effective way of dealing with a child who may have been a danger to him or herself and others while allowing them to be in a learning environment.

Where the school stuffed up big time was in not consulting the parents & getting their agreement for the arrangement and of course when you have a Minister like Joy Burch involved the result is never going to be good.

Garfield 8:37 am 22 Sep 15

I seem to remember that the ACT government reduced the number of special needs teachers quite significantly a few years ago and regard the cage incident as a last ditch action by a desperate school that was out of options in trying to deal with a difficult child that it shouldn’t have had in the first place. The Libs made an announcement last election that they wanted to set up a dedicated school for children with autism. Does anyone know if that’s still part of their platform?

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