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Impact of School Closures on Students with Disabilities in Outaouais: A Parent’s Perspective

The closure of the majority of schools in Outaouais for a month has far from negligible repercussions on students with disabilities or social maladjustments or learning difficulties (EHDAA).

From the start, even though it had been mentioned for weeks, Julie Hébert did not believe that the walkout would last that long. The impacts on her daughter, MaryJane, aged 8 who attends an ASD class at the Grand-Héron school in Gatineau, did not take long to be felt, she admits. And after a month, she already knows that turning around won’t be an easy task.

“It is certain that the more time passes, the more difficult it is, because for her, routine is extremely important and now we are no longer in this same mode, which means that she is more and more agitated and developed OCD, confides the mother. Like many parents, we will arrive at Christmas exhausted. It’s a complex situation.”


Still, the primary concern for Ms. Hébert is what state her daughter will be in once she returns to school, specifying that she wants the parties to negotiate extremely seriously and find common ground sooner rather than later. .

“Can we at least hope to go back to January? But what state will she (MaryJane) be in? It’s my biggest stress. Her OCD, her agitation, I don’t know how long it will take to bring her back to normal. After the pandemic (at school), it took us months. […] There is the impact on learning, yes, but also the physical and emotional well-being of both children and parents,” she explains.

The anxiety level of her daughter, who is non-verbal, has increased since her regular daily life has been disrupted. Stability is an essential ingredient in his case. So much so that if there was a return (to school) for a few days, she would have stayed at home.

“Even if she (had been) super happy to go back, she wouldn’t understand why she was there for only two, three days. Already his routine is messed up, I wouldn’t (have) added it, to keep the semblance of artificial routine that has been created. Already the holiday season is not the normal routine either, she maintains. For us, that’s the idea: to keep as much stability as possible in an environment which for the moment is totally unstable and unpredictable. This is our biggest challenge.”

In November, Julie Hébert would never have believed that there would be a knock on the Christmas door and that her daughter would still be deprived of school.

“With children with special needs, it’s not so simple, because there are camps that have been organized and lots of other great things in the community, but these are things that we don’t necessarily have access to. .”

— Julie Hébert

For the 2023-2024 school year, the three Outaouais school service centers affected by the closure of schools for more than a month have a total of 11,564 students with an intervention plan, i.e. a proportion by approximately 26%.

Limited resources

Although the challenges are different, the daily life of Olivier, a 14-year-old teenager with Down syndrome who attends the Le Carrefour comprehensive school, has also been turned upside down for a month, says his mother Edith Davignon.

“It is certain that we are in the organization in terms of work, to keep Olivier busy, under surveillance. The challenge (during the last month) was juggling who is able to stay home. Normally, it’s always me, but when I have to go to the office, my husband has to take time off. It’s restrictive, that’s for sure, sometimes a little stressful,” she describes.

The Gatinoise emphasizes that her son has an average disability and that while he has sufficient autonomy to take care of his personal care, it is far from being as simple for several other aspects. And there are no shortage of options for a helping hand.

“As far as the recognition of danger is concerned, he has not yet reached that maturity. He doesn’t look at cars before crossing the street. So of course there must always be an adult in the house with him. We (as a couple) are alone in the region, our two families are in the Eastern Townships and Mauricie. We have no family resources,” says the mother.

There is the Association for Community Integration (APICO), which strikes in schools or not, offers a day of activities on Saturdays, to which the teenager is regularly registered to have fun and at the same time give a respite to his parents.

But during the week, the crux of the matter during a strike is more difficult. The organization Le Relais des Jeunes Gatinois opened a form of childcare service at certain times for young people with an intellectual disability, but the offer varied greatly.

“This week (December 11 to 15), it was open four days, last week there was nothing at all. And in November there were three days. Sometimes we were contacted at the last minute,” she explains.

Ms. Davignon is especially concerned about maintaining social skills for Olivier, for whom school is a daily driving force for maintaining relationships with others.

Because outside of class, she pleads, there is no or very little interaction between people in her school program (Skills focused on social participation), where we don’t focus so much on academic but on autonomy and social integration through several activities.

“We try to do exercises but there are areas that we can’t really work on at home. So he’s a little more disoriented, already he’s in the moon a lot, because he has a fairly serious attention deficit disorder. Probably the first few days (when returning to school) will be more difficult with the group guidelines, her mother said. But I’m not too worried, he will get used to it relatively easily, it will come back quickly for him once he has the skills.

Collective awakening?

Despite everything, both as a parent and a citizen, she says she agrees with the demands of school staff, because, she specifies, “the challenges are enormous”.

“The challenges are enormous, I think it’s about time something happened. I think everyone knew it, but no one talked about it. It is a good thing for the current government to demonstrate the importance of our education, of our children, it is our future,” she declares.

In his opinion, this collective awakening is notably due to the fact that parents realize to what extent the public network is cruelly lacking in resources, for example professional, to help children progress.

“But we don’t have the means to do without it either because of the needs,” argues Ms. Davignon.

As for Ms. Hébert, seeing how well her daughter is doing there, she praises the importance of specialized classes, which are increasingly rare.

“She loves going to school, they are fantastic people. But we will not hide it, it is a demanding job. We see it to the extent that everyone slips behind, for example when there are absent people (among the staff) and we cannot replace them, she says. There is a lack of resources and that certainly does not make the work of those involved very easy.”

2023-12-22 17:13:51
#Special #students #forgotten #labor #conflict

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