Par­ents with heart­felt plea for sys­tem to help their autis­tic chil­dren lead a nor­mal life

Malta Independent - - NEWS - Gabriel Schem­bri

Par­ents who at­tended a sem­i­nar about autism gave a heart­felt plea for au­thor­i­ties to pro­vide the nec­es­sary sup­port so that their chil­dren who suffer from autism lead a nor­mal life and for schools to be as in­clu­sive as pos­si­ble.

The sem­i­nar which was held at the Corinthia Palace in At­tard was or­gan­ised by Labour Party MEP Miriam Dalli. She said that ed­u­ca­tion in Malta should in­clude more ben­e­fits and pro­vide more ac­cess to those peo­ple with autism.

The MEP said that the aim of such dis­cus­sions like the one be­ing held was to have pol­icy mak­ers lis­ten to the pub­lic’s con­cern re­gard­ing this is­sue. She said that one must recog­nise that this con­di­tion needs very spe­cific so­lu­tions.

“Peo­ple with autism who are so de­ter­mined to suc­ceed in­spire me and show me that the ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions in Malta need to adapt more. In EU mem­ber states, autis­tic per­sons ben­e­fit from more ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tion and re­spect to their rights. It is high time that these much needed mea­sures are in­cluded in the lo­cal scene. We are speak­ing about de­ter­mined stu­dents who want to suc­ceed. We want this sem­i­nar to ad­dress and dis­cuss how our ed­u­ca­tional sys­tem can help per­sons with autism.”

Emily Slater, an autism ad­vo­cate, opened the sem­i­nar by call­ing on the au­thor­i­ties to recog­nise her sit­u­a­tion and look deeper into the mat­ter. She said that although she did well in most of her school sub­jects, the fact that she could never pass from her Mal­tese exam pre­vented her from get­ting into Univer­sity.

One par­ent of an autis­tic child said that there is no enough sup­port in schools and said that schools sim­ply do not put enough re­sources into this mat­ter. “We need to have a change the men­tal­ity and need to em­power the teach­ers and LSAs,” she said. “I want my son to go to Univer­sity and not stay at home when the LSA’s don’t show up. We need back up be­cause the sys­tem is fail­ing our chil­dren.”

Min­is­ter Evarist Bar­tolo said that in­clu­sion does not sim­ply mean hav­ing LSAs, but this should not serve as an il­lu­sion that if a child has an LSA all prob­lems are solved. “Ed­u­ca­tion is a vo­ca­tion. You have to love chil­dren and the rest will all fall into place. The poli­cies are ok, but it’s the peo­ple that need to im­ple­ment them.”

He said that the LSAs alone are not the so­lu­tion, be­cause it needs to be a whole school ef­fort. Mr Bar­tolo ac­knowl­edged the fact the need to em­power LSAs and pro­vide nec­es­sary train­ing. “What we need is a men­tal­ity change,” he added.

A teacher said that LSAs are be­ing treated as baby sit­ters and lacked tan­gi­ble train­ing. “All I ask is for my son to grow and be­come an ac­tive mem­ber of so­ci­ety,” she in­sisted.

A mother of a twelve year old son with autism and asked if the au­thor­i­ties are do­ing any­thing to ad­dress the autism ‘epi­demic’. “At age nine, a psy­chi­a­trist wanted to shut him down at Mount Carmel. But I couldn’t do that. My con­science would not let me.”

Shadow Min­is­ter for the Econ­omy Claudio Grech, who also ad­dressed the sem­i­nar dur­ing a panel dis­cus­sion, said that there is an across the board com­mit­ment to take nec­es­sary leg­is­la­tion into prac­tice. “What Emily shared with us shows us we are fail­ing. We are look­ing at some­one who wants to learn but the sys­tem is fail­ing her. I am not crit­i­cis­ing the gov­ern­ment per se, but the face­less bu­reau­cracy which holds peo­ple like Emily back.”

Dur­ing the dis­cus­sion, Corinne Woods from the child de­vel­op­ment as­sess­ment unit said that one ma­jor con­cern is that the au­thor­i­ties are not look­ing af­ter the car­ers, in­clud­ing fam­i­lies and pro­fes­sion­als. “We need a fam­i­ly­cen­tred ap­proach,” she said.

Dr Elena Tanti Burlo said that the lo­cal ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem is very se­lec­tive. “We have tried to force an in­clu­sive ed­u­ca­tional sys­tem, into a sys­tem that is very se­lec­tive even for any other pupil.”

She said that teach­ers are ab­di­cat­ing their re­spon­si­bil­ity to peo­ple who are not trained. “I train LSAs and those sit­ting for the diploma work a lot, but the sys­tem in it­self needs to change. We have a lot of re­sources, but we must use them bet­ter.”

In EU mem­ber states, autis­tic per­sons ben­e­fit from more ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tion and re­spect to their rights. It is high time that these much needed mea­sures are in­cluded in the lo­cal scene.

Pho­tos: Michael Camil­leri

Evarist Bar­tolo

Miriam Dalli

Emily Slater

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malta

© PressReader. All rights reserved.