Perhaps the most motivating call to action I’ve ever had was when a school board official told me and Catherine, in 2014, that “educational assistants are in schools to allow students to survive, not to thrive.” I appreciated their candour in saying this, as it’s this sort of thing that educators will rarely say out loud, even if it’s true. But it was a hard thing to hear, and a hard notion to consider given the number of students whose lives it described.
I used those words when I testified to the Legislative Assembly about the Autism Coordination Act in the fall of 2018, and I’ve referenced them many times when I’ve been advocating for how we need to change our attitude toward allowing our autistic brothers and sisters full citizenship.
The Autism Coordination Act requires that an annual report be tabled to the Legislative Assembly detailing the activities that have taken place under the its umbrella, and the first such report was tabled on July 7, 2020 by Hon. Brad Trivers.
In his introductory message in the report, Minister Trivers finished with this sentence (emphasis mine):
By continuing our collaboration, we can help ensure those with Autism Spectrum Disorder and their families thrive on Prince Edward Island.
Reading the report, it’s clear that there is much to be done: to date much of the work of the Autism Coordinating Committee has been taken up with formalizing itself and getting the lay of the land.
While history gives us many reasons to be skeptical–we were at a similar juncture in 2009 when government’s Autism Action Group released a draft report with a set of recommendations that went largely unrealized–I remain hopeful that this is the start of a revolution of how we embrace autism in this province.
Thrive, not survive, is a good place to start.