Saturday, August 8, 2009

BIG TENT - new update

For those that are interested in joining the Big Tent Meeting tomorrow via the internet, here is the latest update to link in. For any further updates or clarifications, please refer to the Ontario Autism Coalition website:

Remote Connections
We'll have a live blog at

I also promised a live chat. I've decided to use -- it's a portal to a wide range of chat services including Facebook, GoogleTalk, msn chat & Yahoo chat. I've set up accounts for those four only. If you chat with my account on any of those, you don't get the whole thing, but if you get an account on Meebo you're going to see all the individual chats combined.
On Meebo: The chat room is called "Big Tent Meeting" in the "Tech" section
On Facebook, I'm Bruce McIntosh
On msn, I'm
On GoogleTalk, I'm
On Yahoo, I'm

Thursday, August 6, 2009


A message about the Big Tent Meeting on Saturday..... for those of you outside the GTA who would like to participate:

Subject: Great News about our Meeting!

Today has been a busy day of pre-meeting preparation. We're happy to announce the following:

1. We WILL have an internet connection at the meeting, which will allow us to post a live blog about the event. We're also working on putting together a chat feature that may allow those of you who are out of town to communicate with us while the meeting unfolds. Here's the URL for the blog site (you'll also be able to find the link at the OAC website);

2. We received confirmation today that Suzanne Lanthier, Executive Director of Autism Speaks Canada, will be joining us at the meeting. For those of you interested in lobbying at the federal level, this will be a great opportunity to hear about the plans that Autism Speaks is developing for more advocacy on the national scene.

3. We also have representatives who will be attending from a variety of other organizations: Autism Ontario, the Alliance for Families with Autism, and Autism Resolution Ontario. We're really excited by the wide-cross section of advocates who will be with us on Saturday.

4. Thanks to a generous contribution from Autism Speaks, we will be able to provide coffee and lunch for up to 50 participants. It's a simple box lunch--small sandwich, chips and a drink, but it allows us to keep everyone on site, which will save us a lot of time. As a result, we're tightening up the agenda so that we can end earlier. (See our website for the revised agenda)

5. We've had over 60 responses to our pre-meeting survey, and it's telling us that there is a very high level of consensus on the goals and objectives we should be working towards. Thanks very much to all of you who have taken the time to complete it. For those of you who haven't had a chance, we'd really appreciate it if you could try to do so before tomorrow night. Here's the survey link, one more time:;

Please remember to RSVP to this event if you haven't done so already. We look forward to seeing lots of you on Saturday, and we hope to chat on-line with those of you joining us from far away.


Bruce & Laura

Monday, August 3, 2009

August 2nd AUTISM NEWS courtesy Nancy Morrison

A reminder of the Big Tent Meeting happening this coming Saturday. I have copies the last two paragraphs of the invite as sent out most recently by OAC below. Please remember to fill out the survey, especially if you are unable to attend the meeting, and if you are able to attend, please also RSVP. Hope to see all of you there!!!

To that end, we want to invite you to a meeting. One day--Saturday, August 8th, 2009--with some of the most experienced, energetic and outspoken autism advocates in Ontario. All you need to bring is an open mind and your ideas. Together, we'll lay out a road map for the next wave of autism advocacy in Ontario.

We sincerely hope that you can join us on Saturday, August 8th from 10am to 4pm. The location will be Bloorview Kids Rehab. If you are unable to attend, we'd still very much appreciate it if you could complete the pre-meeting survey on our website. (

A reminder of the 20/20 show this week that will air the story about Carly Fleischmann, here is a reminder message from her mother Tammy Starr:

This footage was shot in March of 2008 and last weekend. Should be a great segment. Please feel free to pass this on to anyone who might be interested as well as

Thanks so much,
Tammy and Arthur
Interesting how Carly's greatest gains started at age 10 and continue to occur!!!!

And what a segway into this posting from another list, a research project from U of W regarding speech development:

Evaluating Language In Children With Autism
Main Category: Autism
Article Date: 11 Jun 2009 - 4:00 PDT

A new parent questionnaire, developed at the University of Waterloo, will
help health practitioners to more accurately gauge the acquisition of
language skills in children with autism.

The pioneering Language Use Inventory (LUI) is among a set of measures for
evaluating spoken language development in children with autism spectrum
disorders, recommended by an expert panel.

The experts' report, Defining Spoken Language Benchmarks and Selecting
Measures of Expressive Language Development for Young Children with Autism
Spectrum Disorders, appears in the June 2009 issue of the Journal of Speech,
Language and Hearing Research. The report was commissioned by the National
Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.

"This is very exciting news," said UW professor Daniela O'Neill, a
developmental psychologist who created the LUI. "This report will be of
tremendous help to researchers, clinicians and speech-language professionals
involved in intervention with young children with autism and we are very
proud to see the LUI included among the measures recommended for evaluating
the efficacy of interventions that target spoken language."

The LUI is a standardized questionnaire that asks parents about their
child's use of language in many different kinds of settings. Research from
the Centers for Disease Control suggests the prevalence of autism spectrum
disorders to be one in 150 children.

"The LUI looks at pragmatic language development which has do with how young
children are able to use their language effectively and successfully in
everyday interactions with other people in ways that are age-appropriate and
typical," O'Neill explained. "For example, to ask for help, comment about
noticeable things, tease, tell stories and give others information they
might need. The pragmatics of language can be an area of great difficulty
for children with autism."

Difficulty with learning language and communicating with others is often one
of the first things that parents become concerned about. Parents have much
valuable information to offer about their child's language use to
professionals evaluating their child. "A parent has had the most experience
watching their child try to use their language in a host of different
settings and with many different people."

The LUI provides speech-language pathologists and researchers with a new
tool to evaluate a young child's broad pragmatic use of language. As many as
14 per cent of preschool-age children in Canada and the U.S. may be at risk
for language disorders.

The LUI is the product of more than eight years of research funded by the
Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The development of the inventory
included a large-scale study in which more than 3,500 parents from across
Canada completed the questionnaire describing their child's language

"This study will help us understand unexplored ways of identifying language
skills in children with autism," says Dr. Michael Kramer, Scientific
Director at the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. "Our support for the
development of the Language Use Inventory helps keep us on the forefront of
research on autism in young children. This research will also provide
unprecedented insight into language acquisition in typically-developin g
Canadian children as well as those with communication disorders and other
disabilities, " said Dr. Kramer.

"The tremendous response we had from parents all across Canada has allowed
us to provide norms for the LUI at every month from 18 to 47 months of age,"
O'Neill said. "We were amazed by how eager so many parents were to take
part. I think the issue of how children learn language is just as
fascinating to parents as to researchers and also many parents can relate to
the anxiety of wondering if perhaps a child is experiencing language
difficulties or may be falling significantly behind their peers."

The LUI allows a comparison of a child's score with children of the same
age - similar to height and weight charts used by family doctors.

Family practitioners in the Kitchener-Waterloo are involved in preliminary
studies looking at its use in doctor's offices. "Both doctors and parents
are enthusiastic about the possibility of learning more about how a child's
language is progressing relative to peers of the same age through a friendly
and easy-to-use questionnaire, such as the LUI."

David Coulombe
Canadian Institutes of Health Research

From Parent Central, Alberta seems to be ahead of Ontario on so many fronts in dealing with our children.......

Alberta ahead on care of disabled children

July 29, 2009
Tanya Talaga

Queen's Park Bureau

Families in Alberta who faced giving up parental rights to get medical care for their severely disabled children convinced the province to change the law to let them keep custody of their kids and get help to pay for their care.

But parents in Ontario say they are still struggling to be heard.

Under Alberta's Family Support for Children with Disabilities Act, parents who can't afford steep medical bills for children needing round-the-clock care are given assistance outside of child welfare.

Alberta recognized children with disabilities are different from children who need to be placed under protective services by child welfare, said Trevor Coulombe, a spokesman for Alberta's ministry of children and youth services. The act provides parents with funding to access services.

Ontario Ombudsman André Marin recently revealed in his annual report his office was contacted by 24 families who feared they would have to give up custody because they can't afford care.

Marin's office has worked with the province to individually resolve cases but he wants to see an overarching policy to help these families and others.

Ontario Minister of Children and Youth Services Deb Matthews is committed to ensuring no parent has to give up a child to get service, said Kevin Spafford, a ministry spokesman, who added Ontario is looking at what other jurisdictions are doing in this area.

An interesting letter exchange printed in the Toronto Sun for your reading enjoyment:

Comment Letters

Letters to the Editor


Last Updated: 31st July 2009, 3:10am


Moira MacDonald gets it wrong when she characterizes the proposed Student Achievement and School Board Governance Act, or Bill 177, as a "kid glove version" of the No Child Left Behind Act in the U.S. The purpose of Bill 177 is to clarify the mandate of school boards to emphasize their responsibility for student achievement. No parent or educator would disagree with this focus. We're working with our education partners to establish indicators that would be used to determine student achievement. Unlike No Child Left Behind, our intention is to provide a continuum of supports to school boards, not punitive measures. It's in everyone's best interest to ensure that boards have the most effective practices in place to support student achievement. Test scores are an important measure of achievement, but we are also looking at measures of student well-being. We've set increased levels of achievement as a primary goal for Ontario 's publicly funded school system -- by doing so we will continue to produce students who are good citizens and ready for the challenges of the 21st Century.



(Moira specifically said your government's stated intentions are less extreme than No Child Left Behind. She also suggested your ministry, in implementing the policy, might well screw it up. We agree. After all, it's not as if it hasn't happened before )

From the Toronto Star, more on the story about the Wood family:

End of benefits for disabled girl perplexes dad - News & Features -

End of benefits for disabled girl perplexes dad

Grace Wood, 11, has a rare genetic disease called DiGeorge syndrome that causes heart and lung problems, resulting in prohibitive medical expenses.
Aid cut off because their income surpasses limit to get help from program, struggling family told
July 30, 2009
Tanya Talaga
Queen's Park Bureau

Peterborough resident John Wood wants to know why his family was suddenly cut off from a government benefit that helped them pay for his daughter's prohibitive medical expenses.

Grace Wood, 11, has a rare genetic disease called DiGeorge syndrome that causes heart and lung problems. Her health costs are a financial struggle for the family. Special dietary requirements and drugs can cost upwards of $2,000 a month. Private insurance only goes so far.

In April, Wood, who works for Pepsico Foods Canada, says the family suddenly lost the $410 monthly cheque they received under the Assistance for Children with Severe Disabilities (ACSD) program, an income-based program intended to help low- to moderate-income families. The cut-off for eligibility for a family of four is $62,641.

The Woods' family income is $64,425.

The benefit was also based on the severity of the child's illness and the extraordinary expenses faced by the family, but that doesn't seem to apply any more, Wood said.

"We qualified up until April of this year," he told a Queen's Park news conference yesterday.

"In April this year, that changed when we were informed our income precluded eligibility. There was no discussion of extraordinary expenses or how disabled Grace had become or what her medical needs were going to be in the coming months," Wood added.

Next month, Wood and Grace will fly to Edmonton for a heart valve replacement procedure. Grace had her first open heart surgery at 14 months of age and she's had 24 heart procedures to keep her arteries open.

Children and Youth Services Minister Deb Matthews said the program is designed to help only low- to moderate-income families for kids with severe disabilities.

There is a slow phase-out of financial support as income rises to the cap, she said.

"The way the program is portrayed is you get $410 a month, then nothing. It doesn't work that way," Matthews said.

"This is a program designed to support families with financial challenges as well as a child with disabilities."

The Liberals have increased spending on the program from $63 million to $90 million and as a result, 5,000 more disabled children are being helped.

"This is a program we continue to invest in," said Matthews. "Is it enough? Should it be more? Those are the decisions we struggle with every year at budget time."

"The government should acknowledge their programs need to be updated and overhauled," New Democratic Leader Andrea Horwath said yesterday.

The Star continues to print letters in relation to the ACSD debate:

Families with disabled kids need help - Opinion - Families with disabled kids need help
August 02, 2009

Re:End of benefits for disabled girl

perplexes dad, July 30

I am stunned that the Ontario government has yet to modify the income threshold for families qualifying to receive the Assistance for Children with Severe Disabilities (ACSD) benefit.

Caring for a disabled child with severe medical issues at home is terribly expensive: prescription formula can run more than $1,500 a month, a seating system and wheelchair can easily cost more than $10,000 a year as your child's body grows, and prescription drugs cost hundreds or thousands more. ACSD helps with a portion – yes, portion – of these costs.

To limit the earning potential of a family to $62,641 (before taxes, by the way) is ridiculous. If both parents work, this pretty well forces them to keep their status quo, not applying for or accepting promotions and pay raises. If doing so meant your child would no longer have prescription drugs, dental care, specialized food or a wheelchair that fits, would you?

I know this because from 1997 to 2004 our daughter received this benefit. Her medical costs were more than $25,000 each year.

Miranda died five years ago, and there is one thing – and only one thing – I am thankful for with her death: that we no longer have the daily worry of how we could manage financially and keep our daughter alive.

Laurie Ann Milne, Timmins

From ARO last week:

TORONTO, July 29 /CNW/ - A new documentary on the challenges of one child
with autism in trying to access publicly subsidized autism therapy effectively
captures the Ontario government's inadequate, harmful and discriminatory
autism intervention policies, and raises fresh concerns about the ongoing and
extreme neglect of all children with autism in Ontario waiting to receive this
essential treatment.

Jaiden's Story: The Struggle for ABA Therapy in Ontario is a brief and
compelling portrait of three-year-old Jaiden, who has been waiting for
provincially funded applied behaviour analysis (ABA) therapy since September
of 2007, and whose family is trying to cope with the government's abandonment
of their son and with the high cost of private ABA therapy.

"Jaiden needs ABA therapy to learn how to communicate and socialize
appropriately with others, and to function in society. By making my son wait
for years for this crucial therapy, the government is neglecting his basic
developmental needs, severely compromising his future prospects, and
ultimately, violating his fundamental human rights," says Sharon Aschaiek,
mother of Jaiden.

ABA is the most established, scientifically proven and effective autism
intervention that is widely used by children with autism worldwide. Children
with autism benefit most from ABA when they receive it intensively-about 30
hours a week of one-on-one instruction-beginning in their early years.

As demonstrated in Jaiden's Story, which can now be seen on the News
section of the ARO site ( or on YouTube
(, while Jaiden languishes on the waitlist
for the Ontario government's intensive behavioural intervention (IBI)
program-IBI is the early and intensive application of ABA-Aschaiek helps her
son in the only way she can-by paying for private ABA therapy. However, early
intensive ABA is costly: currently, Aschaiek spends about $20,000 a year, and
that cost will increase as Jaiden gets older and is able to participate in
more therapy.

As a single mother of limited means, Aschaiek was forced to move with her
son into her parents' home in Thornhill to save on cost-of-living expenses.
She now spends almost every cent she makes on therapy for her son, but she
says it's entirely worth it, as Jaiden is making significant developmental
gains with ABA. However, because Ontario government will continue denying
subsidized intervention to Jaiden for many more months or even years, Aschaiek
worries about how she'll pay for Jaiden's future therapy.

"Even with the minimal amount of ABA therapy I can afford, Jaiden has
advanced so much. Thanks to ABA, he can now express himself much better, and
he's more interested in family and friends," Aschaiek says. "However, when
Jaiden will require $30,000 to $50,000 worth of therapy a year, I won't be
able to afford it. Without receiving enough of the ABA therapy he needs to
develop and function, Jaiden will be at serious risk of losing the skills he's
gained, and failing at school and in adulthood."

Jaiden is far from alone in his lengthy wait for vital ABA treatment:
currently, about 1,500 children with autism in Ontario are waiting to
participate in the provincial government's subsidized IBI program.
Disturbingly, that's more than the number of children actually receiving it -
about 1,300. About another 400 children are actually waiting to wait - that
is, they are waiting to qualify to get on the IBI program waitlist.

"The wait for my family has meant that my wife had to resign her job, my
mother exhausted her retirement savings, and we have exhausted all our savings
and retirement funds - all to self-fund/deliver our son's therapy," says
Mississauga-based Barry Hudson, father of Barry, 4. "So, not only does my
son's therapy still need funding, but I, my mother and my wife will require
income supplements in our retirement. In summary: the ABA wait list crisis
equals pay much more later."

Aschaiek and Hudson are just a couple of the hundreds of highly motivated
parents across the province who are involved Autism Resolution Ontario (ARO),
a new grassroots, non-partisan advocacy initiative working to make publicly
funded ABA therapy more accessible, and to achieve social justice for children
with autism. ARO is leading an ongoing, high-impact, province-wide public
awareness campaign to promote the benefits of ABA as the most proven and
effective autism intervention; to expose the government's neglectful and
discriminatory autism intervention policies; and to promote practical and
cost-effective solutions-based on existing studies and reports-to resolving
the autism crisis in Ontario.

Jaiden's Story is the first documentary in what is planned to be a
three-part series that will fully explore the most pressing ABA
inaccessibility issues facing children with autism in Ontario and their

Aschaiek echoes Hudson's sentiment that, ultimately, the Ontario
government's denial of early intensive ABA to children with autism is a
problem that affects everyone, because taxpayers will have to pay millions of
dollars more down the road to sustain these individuals as adults.

"With sufficient ABA, our children have much better chances of becoming
independent and contributing members of society," Aschaiek says. "Without it,
the government is condemning them to a lifetime of dysfunction and social
services dependency."

For further information: To learn more, or to book an interview with
Sharon Aschaiek or other ARO family members, contact Sharon Aschaiek at (416)
352-8813 or

Forwarding a copy of ARO's most recent newsletter:

August 2, 2009
Autism Resolution Ontario (ARO) family newsletter


In this message, wed like to tell you about:
1. Violating our children’s rights: Let us count the ways—new
information document
2. Collaborative autism advocacy effort
3. Have your say—new ARO poll

1. A new information document developed by ARO outlines all of the
various Ontario and Canadian legislative documents and UN convention
documents that the provincial government is violating, and as a
result, blatantly infringing on the human rights of children with
autism. This eye-opening and compelling document can be found on the
ARO website,—go to Resources, then ARO
Articles, and it’s the third item featured.

2. A movement is afoot to launch a collaborative effort to advocate
for individuals with autism in Ontario. Taking place in Toronto on
August 8, the goal of the all-day event, which is open to all members
of the autism community, is to establish shared advocacy goals and
organize specific advocacy projects to which people can contribute
their time, skills and energy. To learn more about how to get
involved, visit The Big Tent Ontario Autism Meeting on Facebook, or go
directly to

3. ARO has put up a new poll on its website that has to do with the
safety of children in ABA centres and the regulation of the ABA
profession. Currently, preschool and school-age children at ABA
centres do not enjoy the protection of government oversight, and this
can be a cause for concern for the parents of these vulnerable
children. We are asking the following question: Schools, nurseries and
daycares in Ontario are regulated by the government to protect and
benefit the children they serve. Should ABA therapy providers also be
regulated by the government? To have your say, visit and go to Resources, then

A note sent out by Autism Speaks head office, we were asked not to share it until after noon on July 30th, sorry that I have not been online to get it out to everyone on this list sooner. My apologies if you have seen this from other sources already:

Interview with Autism Speaks Chief Science Officer on Vaccines

Dear Autism Speaks Volunteer Leaders,

I want to share with you that we will be posting an important interview with our Chief Science Officer Dr. Geri Dawson on our website at 12 noon EDT today. The interview will cover the organization’s research funding and position on vaccines and autism as well as address several questions that frequently come up with volunteers, supporters, media and the general public. While there is no new information being provided, we are taking this opportunity to clarify our position on this topic while also providing information that will hopefully help families make the right decisions about their children’s health.

The interview is found at the following link:

FALL SOCIAL SKILLS PROGRAM: Learning 2 Play, Inc. (L2P) teaches essential skills that are the foundation for lifelong learning, well-being, and social development (e.g., self-reliance, oral communication, and social skills). The program begins at the foundation of play skills, and progresses to conversational and interpersonal skills, as well as school social skills.

Children enter L2P with a diverse range of needs, experiences, and abilities. All individuals are assessed in order to establish program goals and then placed in small groups (3-6 children per group) according to their age and ability. Both individual and group goals are fostered. We are currently accepting children 3 - 12 years of age for our Fall Social Skills Session.

Our Fall Social Skills Program runs on Sundays, starting September 13 and runs for 14 weeks ending Dec 20, 2009. For information on our program please contact Dana at 647 436 - 5651 or visit our website at

From the Toronto Star, an article about Camp A-OK:

Adults, kids find camp life here is A-OK - Fresh Air Fund -

Adults, kids find camp life here is A-OK
TARGET: $580,000

TO DATE: $570,780

BY CHEQUE: Mail to Toronto Star Fresh Air Fund, One Yonge St., Toronto, ON, M5E 1E6.

BY CREDIT CARD: Visa or MasterCard, call 416-869-4847.

ONLINE: Use our secure form at:

The Star absorbs all administrative costs and does not authorize anyone to solicit on its behalf. Tax receipts will be issued in September.

If you have been touched by the Fresh Air Fund or have a story to tell, email

July 30, 2009
Leslie Ferenc
Staff Reporter

Kids go to camp for all sorts of reasons - because their parents send them; to learn new skills; to make new friends and have fun or simply because they love it.

James Everest has added another to his long list.

“I like going to this camp because the staff find me a pleasure to work with,” he said. “They think I have a wicked sense of humour. And yes, I do.”

The 19-year-old dipped into his vast repertoire when asked to share one of his famous yuks. “I’m on a seafood diet,” he said smiling. “When I see food, I eat it.”

A natural when it comes to telling jokes Everest has been keeping his pals at A-OK Camp in stitches for years.

Established in 1987, the eight-week summer program offers children and youth with Autism Spectrum Disorders a chance to do what so many other kids do in the summer - hang out with their pals, make crafts to take home to their parents, go on outings and have a ball. Because of their high needs, the camper/counselor ratio is 2:1 or even 1:1.

This year, a program has been added for adults making the Autism Ontario York Region Chapter camp the largest of its kind in the province.

“We can now say we assist people from 4 to 104,” said Paul Kalmykow, the chapter’s co-ordinator of summer camp programs.

Without this special day camp and its trained staff and volunteers, many of these kids and adults would have no choice but spend their summers friendless and at home.

Learning is as big a part of camp as the fun and games. The youth program, run with the help of Kerry’s Place Autism Services, offers campers the opportunity to acquire important life skills on their road to greater independence including how to write a resume and prepare for an interview. They also get first hand experience working at job placements in the community. “I work at the Book on the Hill,” offered Everest.

Another favourite camp activity is swimming at the wave pool. “It’s a nice place,” he said adding the waves aren’t too big or strong. “It’s fun to be there.”

Thanks to the addition of the adult program, Eric Beedham had his first vacation in nine years, his mother Lynda said adding going to the pool with the camp was a big thrill for her 27-year-old son who was a former camper and Special Olympics swimmer. It’s something he hasn’t had a chance to do since moving into a local group home in 2001. “I will be speaking with camp staff to see what they can do in the group home to arrange visits to the pool,” she added.

Kalmykow’s son Ben, 19, will be back at camp in a few days. He’s looking forward to seeing everyone. “Making friends is something that’s hard to do for people with ASD,” Kalmykow explained. “They live in their own world but there’s social isolation too.

“At camp, they get involved with the community – on the buses, going to pre-vocational opportunities, going to the theatre and meeting other people.”

But it wouldn’t be possible without the help of the community, camp staff, volunteers and the generosity of donors including foundations, agencies and Star readers who support the Fresh Air Fund, Kalmykow said during a donor appreciation open house at camp located at St. Charles Garnier Catholic School. The program is one of 106 Fresh Air Fund camps. Money from Fresh Air is used to subsidize campers, many whose families are sole support parents, the working poor or newcomers who simply couldn’t afford to send their loved ones to camp.

With your gift, the Fresh Air Fund can help send 25,000 disadvantaged and special needs children to camp.

A fundraiser for National Service Dogs:

Please, please, please, help if you can. Looking for attendance, ticket sales, and/or door prizes. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks again


proceeds to National Service Dogs

WHY? The last litter born to Jo-Jo accumulated a

large amount of vet bills before they were 2 weeks old

Retro Dance

Saturday, August 29, 2009


Wellesley Community Centre
1000 Maple Leaf Street

Wellesley ON N0B 2T0

Cash bar and light snack provided

DJ, Silent Auction, Door Prizes

Tickets $12/person or $20/couple


From the Calgary Sun:

Birthday wish delights

Young boy thrilled with opportunity to drive C-Train


Last Updated: 29th July 2009, 4:23am

Jastein Barr turned five a week ago, but he hasn't stopped talking about his unforgettable birthday bash that got him driving an empty Calgary train for a few minutes.

The boy, who has autism, spent most of his birthday with Mike Magee, a C-Train driving instructor, on July 22.

His mom, Ann Barr, was at a loss for words to express her gratitude to Calgary Transit for making her son's birthday memorable.

"It almost made me cry that they would do this for our little boy and they didn't even know him," said Barr, who has four children, two of them with autism.

The day began for Jastein and his mom at the Anderson train station, where they were picked up by transit staff who drove them to the train garage.

The boy was outfitted with a yellow hard hat, covered in stickers with the boy's name on it.

Following a detailed tour of the garage, the little boy and his mom were led to a single train car with banners hanging on it announcing Jastein's fifth birthday.

Jastein was then allowed to push a button to open the train's door, was given the driver's seat and shown how to beep all the horns. He was also instructed not to push a big red emergency stop button.

"They let him drive the train and at every station they announced over the speaker 'This train is out of service, this is Jastein's train -- happy birthday, Jastein," Barr said.

He got to beep the horns, turn the windshield wipers on and off and eventually was switching on the intercom to tell everyone himself that it was Jastein's train, she said.

The boy's trip went from Anderson to the Stampede station.

Theresa Keddy, a spokeswoman for Calgary Transit, said a public request like this is not usually granted, but transit officials are happy to make an exception.


Lindsay Moir writes another great article for those of us anxiously awaiting the start of school:

Ask Lindsay Moir:
One month to go.....!

Friday, July 31, 2009


This "question" is a composite of several email and phone inquiries I have received.

Our son starts school in one month! Last Spring, we had several meetings which identified that the actual transition to school would be VERY difficult for our autistic son, and the school board staff were all very "nice", reassuring us "that everything will be fine" and that they would be in touch to work out the details of this transition. The school is closed. The consultant is "out of the office' till September 1st, and we haven't heard from anybody... the Principal has an unlisted number. What should we do?

It takes our daughter 3-4 weeks to settle back into a learning routine after summer holidays due to her behavioural and intellectual exceptionalities. Even simple things like bed time routine have been relaxed during July. Are we "ogres" by taking up August ( vacation time) to begin to re-establish good "school habits"??

Our special needs son starts high school this September, after 10 years in a wonderful small rural elementary school-------------any suggestions of how to ease this "shock"? Our meetings last year sorted out the big issues of program, support and curriculum, but we are looking for suggestions to help with the "small" stuff!


In many boards this is the "dead zone"--- some boards shut down the board office for two or three weeks around the beginning of August--- you literally can't reach anyone in administration.!!! Most board offices "power up" by mid-August. Board level consultants usually work the same schedule as teachers-- so don't look for them before the week before school starts. This year is VERY unusual, with many boards returning or having PD days BEFORE Labour Day weekend. Check your board website for your local calendar details. Principals and teachers usually spend most of the week before classes in the school building getting ready for returning students. Trustees are usually available if they are not on vacation.

If you want physical access to the school for short visits or to take pictures to use in pre-teaching your son, call Physical Plant (or Building Maintenance) at the board office and ask them to arrange access-- this is likely one part of the school board that has coverage all through the summer. In terms of education planning, contact the Superintendent and ask them to facilitate the necessary preliminary meetings BEFORE school starts. Principals are technically "on-call" during the summer, and most will call you in response to a Superintendent's request! Ask the Principal to set up chances for your son to meet the teacher, see the room, find the washroom and the right door during the week before classes start. In my opinion, your son should be a priority if the school has "staggered entry"-- he should be one of the first children to attend, NOT one of the last!! This means his transition should occur early, before school starts. Try to get the consultant to be there for the first day to give the teacher advice and support in managing your son. A "supported" teacher stays positive, so set up a meeting at the end of the first week to "nip problems in the bud".

You are NOT an Ogre!!!!! As an educator, I wish all parents would get their children back into a "learning routine" before school starts. Getting back into a good bedtime routine ensures that children arrive at school ready to learn. As a parent, I always encouraged activities that required my children to stay in a seat for a period of time, concentrate on a task, follow a sequence or schedule, in the week or so before school started. We did not "do school"-- but we did practice the habits that school requires. Teachers welcome back students that are ready to learn!!!!

There is no doubt that the first day of high school inspires fear in most "niners"!!! It is even more traumatic for exceptional pupils..... Here are a few tips to address common small issues that often arise for exceptional pupils:

get his combination (or other lock) ahead of time and locate his locker on a visit a few days ahead. It is demoralizing to struggle with a lock in a very public place--- make sure that this is solved in advance of the first day

If he is riding the big yellow bus, find him a "bus buddy"-- some one to sit with, to help him find the right bus AFTER school (there could be 50-60 buses sitting there). Ideally this is student who gets on before him or at the same stop.

Will he bring a lunch or buy one in the cafeteria? Does he know how to buy a lunch or things to supplement his brown-bagged lunch? Get him a lunch buddy from his old school to help him in this unfamiliar environment.

High Schools have "new rules"--- certain areas may "Out of Bounds" during classes, only certain grades can be in the cafeteria in certain periods etc. Make sure that your son learns these special rules.

Extra-curricular activities are an important part of high school. Make sure that your son in included in school teams, clubs etc-- these are amazing social opportunities and really add to the High School experience. Usually, students have to seek out these chances.... be pro-active for your son and involve him in more than just the classes. There are many ways for special needs to students to be included!!

School is less than a month away... what are YOU doing to get ready?


Nancy Morrison
Bradford, ON

Visit: Phil Morrison @ Sussex Home Improvement
(905) 252-8989
(416) 409-4399