Back in May of 2007, as Term One of our twins’ first and last year of Australian schooling was drawing to a close, we understood the situation:
On Fridays, there would be no teacher-aide support in mainstream class for our autism-diagnosed son. The other four days were fine, but the ’emergency funding’ for the fifth had run out. If we wanted support, we could pay for it ourselves, or we could come to school with him. Of course, we could always keep him at home if we wanted. This was how it would be for the remainder of the year. This was how it would be for the next twelve years.
You can imagine our emotions – anger, disbelief, disillusionment.
It may surprise you to know there was also relief.
As the very lucky beneficiaries of my wife’s birth heritage, we had the option of schooling our kids in Canada. In the Spring of 2006, as the first educational barriers were being erected before our boy, and before we had any inkling they could be high enough to stop him going to class altogether, we decided to take up that option. Twelve months on, following a whole lot of research, forms, applications, phone calls, second guesses and soul searches, we were mere weeks away from the move. The sans aide news was confirmation we’d made the right call. The Australian education system might have been trying to ruin our lives and eat all our steak, but we were moving the grill to the Great White North.
Fast forward to 2014. Last week, my son finished his final year of elementary school. Due to the ongoing teachers’ labour dispute (btw, as a former chalkie, I support the teachers unequivocally…the good ones, anyway), the graduation ceremony was held in lieu of teaching staff and off campus, at a local church. My son didn’t really dig proceedings – it was crowded, hot, the lasagne lunch wasn’t to his liking, the speeches even less so – but that didn’t detract from the moment’s meaning. Our boy had made it. He was at graduation with his superstar twin sister. He was there. And he wasn’t alone – support was on on hand as well. Support that had been with him from his first day at Ladner Elementary. Support that had seen him learn and grow and mature and progress, much more than would ever have been systemically possible in Australia. Support in the form of a teacher aide.
Make that plural: two teacher aides.
Two EA’s in attendance. Away from school. At a ceremony they weren’t mandated to attend. Sharing our pride and joy. Lending a hand to the very end.
Two more than my beloved Australia deemed necessary for our son’s opportunity, well-being and potential.
So, on this day of national celebration, a toast to you, Canada, the true north, strong and free. You ‘aided’ us in a time of need. Keep up the good work.
Must go – I’m needed at the barbecue. We’re cooking steak.