"So many dreams at first seem impossible. And then they seem improbable. And then when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable."
~ Christopher Reeve

Monday, May 30, 2011

Curious

I have a question that I am am wondering if some of my readers might be able to help with.

I am wondering how many (if any) of your kids have been turned away from your local mental health service (most likely known as Child and Adolescent Services) due to the fact that they have "special needs" - or, more accurately, because they are mentally challenged.

I know many of these Services work with children and adolescents on the autistic spectrum, but has anyone been turned away because their child is mentally challenged?

I am really hoping I might get some responses here, whether they be yes or no. Thanks.

Monday, May 23, 2011

'Day 4- West Vancouver to Mission, BC - 83 km'

We all need to be explored. It’s a tragedy that there are people on this planet whose speechlessly brilliant summit will never be discovered because the people around them don’t realize that the hike is worth it. Remember this: the hike is always worth it. Always assume ability, and listen with the patience, care, and effort that you would want anyone to listen to you. Often, the hike is the best part.
* A quote from Skye's blog that I thought was simply too beautiful not to pass on.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Most Excellent

I've done a fair bit of political lobbying in my life, from way back in the way back, when I worked with a group dedicated to ending poverty for third world children until I took on the job of advocating for my own children and others in this Province.

The problem with policitial lobbying being, as I know many of you can attest, that you can do a whole lot of lobbying and get no very little results.  Which is why so many of us (are tempted to) give up, no?

Well, they say there is a first time for everything and today I might just be a believer.

Some of you might remember, back in March, when I asked for your help in writing to your MLA and the Minister of Community Services concerning the "gap year" faced by families in Nova Scotia when their young adult children are between the ages of 18 and 19.  Lose the Child Tax Benefit (including the Disability Supplement) from the federal govertnment with nothing to replace it from the Province until the child turns 19.

You might also recall a post last month where I expressed hope that maybe, just maybe, we had been successful in that regard. My MLA, Ramona Jennex, had told me that even though there had been no media coverage (and nothing apparent on a review of the gov't website), there was indeed a line in the budget to address the gap year issue. But we all know how that goes, seeing is believing, right?

Well, my good friends, I am overjoyed to tell you that today I received an actual (snail mail) letter from the Minister of Community Services, Denise Peterson-Rafuse, herself, advising that
... this issue will be addressed through a transitional allowance for families in the Direct Family Support for Children Program and has been apporoved for implementation. While the details of the funding allowance have not yet been finalized, it is our intention to make this funding available to families in the Direct Family Support for Children Progam starting on July 1, 2011.  Eligible families will be contacted with further details once they are finalized.
So that, it would appear, is that.

Good on us, I say. 

Give yourselves a pat on the back, maybe crack open a bottle of something bubbly this evening.  Take a deep breath and relax.  Enjoy.  Something tells me we just might need this feeling of accomplishment for what lies ahead.

And, of course, I would be terribly remiss not to offer many, many thanks both to Ramona Jennex and Minister Peterson-Rafuse. I know that Ms. Jennex personally (and repeatedly) brought this issue forward with the Minister and I really appreciate her efforts on our behalf.

Published

I see that the potential op ed piece I wrote last Friday is in today's Chronicle Herald.

Admittedly, the headline wasn't quite what I was going for but we will take what we can get.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Good On Him

Although I cannot for the life of me find the story in the digital world *, I heard on the ATV Evening News tonight that a man in the New Glasgow area has brought a lawsuit against the Province in regard to the lack of sign language interpreters available to the deaf population during emergency situations. I believe the gentleman's name was Fiet, but please forgive me if I'm wrong.

At any rate, this person, who has been deaf all their life, had a stroke and ended up in a Halifax hospital, where he asked for a sign language interpreter so he could communicate with the doctor.  Lo and behold, there were none in the land!

And to think I thought we had well and truly dealt with this issue back in 1997!

Because when the Supreme Court of Canada speaks, really, we all should listen:
71 If there are circumstances in which deaf patients cannot communicate effectively with their doctors without an interpreter, how can it be said that they receive the same level of medical care as hearing persons?  Those who hear do not receive communication as a distinct service.  For them, an effective means of communication is routinely available, free of charge, as part of every health care service.  In order to receive the same quality of care, deaf persons must bear the burden of paying for the means to communicate with their health care providers, despite the fact that the system is intended to make ability to pay irrelevant.  Where it is necessary for effective communication, sign language interpretation should not therefore be viewed as an “ancillary” service.  On the contrary, it is the means by which deaf persons may receive the same quality of medical care as the hearing population.

72 Once it is accepted that effective communication is an indispensable component of the delivery of medical services, it becomes much more difficult to assert that the failure to ensure that deaf persons communicate effectively with their health care providers is not discriminatory. In their effort to persuade this Court otherwise, the respondents and their supporting interveners maintain that s. 15(1) does not oblige governments to implement programs to alleviate disadvantages that exist independently of state action. Adverse effects only arise from benefit programs, they aver, when those programs exacerbate the disparities between the group claiming a s. 15(1) violation and the general population. They assert, in other words, that governments should be entitled to provide benefits to the general population without ensuring that disadvantaged members of society have the resources to take full advantage of those benefits.

 ~  ~   ~  ~

95 I have found that where sign language interpreters are necessary for effective communication in the delivery of medical services, the failure to provide them constitutes a denial of s. 15(1) of the Charter and is not a reasonable limit under s. 1. Section 24(1) of the Charter provides that anyone whose rights under the Charter have been infringed or denied may obtain “such remedy as the court considers appropriate and just in the circumstances”. In the present case, the appropriate and just remedy is to grant a declaration that this failure is unconstitutional and to direct the government of British Columbia to administer the Medical and Health Care Services Act (now the Medicare Protection Act) and the Hospital Insurance Act in a manner consistent with the requirements of s. 15(1) as I have described them.
So I think that should just about take care of that, don't you?

* I would be grateful to anyone who could find me an internet reference to the story.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Creative Writing - Potential Op Ed Piece

UPDATE: The link to providing feedback on Dr. Levin's report.  But beware, as others have noted, it's more or less set up only to promote the positive.  You might you get more bang for your buck with a letter to the Minister or her Deputy.

UPDATE II: This was published in as an op ed piece in the Chronicle Herald on Thursday, May 19, 2011.

It's a good thing I'm not Ralph from The Honeymooners because I'm seriously tempted to threaten to send the Nova Scotia Department of Education "straight to the moon" at the moment.

First, the Department amends its Teacher Assistant Guidelines to eliminate any reference to supporting the teaching of students with special needs or providing "support for instructional program", leaving the only remaining job responsibilities of a TA as "personal care" and "safety/behaviour management support". If you don't have a child with special needs or aren't otherwise involved in the school system, that may not mean much to you. But if you do, it’s not hard to picture exactly what that bodes for the future.

Now, we learn that a review of the Province's public education system is calling for the Province to "consider reducing the number of teaching assistants in special education". Does anyone else see any connection here? Is this the beginning of the end of a proper education for our children?

The Province's newest Teacher Assistant Guidelines provide that "Teacher assistant support should be considered only when the student cannot perform prescribed outcomes independently, as determined by the program planning process" but I have to wonder how even those students will receive support when 1) supporting students who cannot meet prescribed outcomes (independently or not) is most definitely no longer part of a TA's job description and 2) the current recommendation is to cut back on the number of TAs when many would argue we don’t have enough to do the job now.

I find Mr. Levin’s concern about the number of students receiving special education services due to an increase in the "soft" areas of identification, like “students thought to have learning disabilities or behaviour problems” rather odd. If he had spent any time at all in Nova Scotia's schools he would know how difficult it is to obtain any special education services for such students. Students are not considered to have a learning disability simply because a parent or teacher thinks this may be so; services won’t be offered (if at all) until a student has been diagnosed by a qualified psychologist. And, given the wait times to be seen by a school psychologist, students can literally wait years for that type of assessment.