B.C. parent hopes for more supports in schools for children with special needs

A Richmond mother of a child with autism worries about other students who may be in the same boat as her son. Ria Renouf has more about her concerns, and whether B.C.’s Education Ministry has any plans to make changes heading into the fall.


RICHMOND (NEWS 1130) — A Richmond mother and member of Autism BC believes the province’s back-to-school announcement is leaving behind children with special needs.

Kaye Banez says listening to the provinces’ COVID-19 protocol plan for schools on Tuesday was heartbreaking.

Part of the reason why Banez pulled both her 9-year-old, Lazarus, who lives with Autism and her 7-year-old, Stella, out of school and placed them in online learning, was because she felt Lazarus wasn’t getting the right kind of educational supports.

And she says the province’s current plans to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 are putting families of students with special needs in a challenging position.

“What they’re doing is that they’re making it sounds very vague. So it’s every family for themselves and again being ping pong between the school system and the government,” she says.

Photo of (L) Kaye Banez’s daughter, Stella, and (R) son Lazarus (Courtesy Kaye Banez)


Banez adds she’s worried that other parents of diverse learners who do not have the same flexibility she has will endure more stress trying to ensure their children are supported.

So she wants the province to provide better guidelines for students in this category.

But Banez tells CityNews she does not expect governments, school boards, or schools to be held accountable.

“Even if you go into inclusive education, that it is up to the school boards to decide.”

Lazarus’ younger sister also spoke to CityNews and says, “I don’t really know how my brother is feeling, but every time we ask him if he wants home school – or mommy’s school — or just go back to school, he says, ‘go back to school.'”

But she says she would be scared for him to return to the classroom.

Banez adds she’s heard from others in a similar position — not just parents of children with Autism but also parents of children who have learning needs that an education assistant must support.

After she heard the latest back-to-school announcement by the province, she spent hours combing through the latest set of rules but was ultimately disappointed and frustrated.

“The only thing that was … wear a mask when you’re near a child when social distancing is not available, or wear a face mask that’s transparent if the child needs to see your facial expression. Or wear gloves when you’re toileting. But nothing more than that,” she says.

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B.C.’s Education Minister, Jennifer Whiteside, was not available for an interview, but her office provided a statement to CityNews.

The office notes the amount of money school districts will be receiving to help students in this category will be increasing. While it says it’s hired an additional 1,500 educational assistants since the start of the 2017/2018 school year, it doesn’t say how many of those EAs are still employed with it.

It also says it expects all school staff will return to the educational setting this fall and that supports will be in place for all students.

“We are on the right track, but we know there is more work to do to ensure students are getting the support they need to thrive in school,” the statement reads.

For now, Banez will continue to have her kids learn from home.

“I just hope that in the future that we don’t look back on this and say, ‘wow. We’ve done these kids wrong.’ And I wish that we’d learn that now than looking back and we realize, this is a segment of the population that we’ve done wrong.”

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