Mom wants child to have full-time teacher's aide

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GLACE BAY — A Glace Bay woman says her daughter will not return to school until she has a full-time teacher's aide.

Darlene MacPherson of Glace Bay reads with daughter Faith. MacPherson won't allow her daughter, who has Down's syndrome, attend school until she had a full-time teacher's aide.

"When I took her the first day, the teacher said there was no one-on-one TA with her,” said Darlene MacPherson.

"My daughter has had a TA for eight years and now all of a sudden they are saying she is doing a little better (so) they have taken that from her," she said.

MacPherson's daughter Faith, who has Down's syndrome, attends the learning centre at Glace Bay Elementary School and is integrated into a classroom for one hour a day. Last year she was integrated into Grade 3.

MacPherson said on the first day of school she was shocked to be told one TA would look after Faith and another child at the same time.

"They said there were seven students and five aides in the class — they felt there was enough there to accommodate her. I don't because I don't feel she should be left alone and neither does our doctor.

"I even asked if I could stay at school with her and they said 'no' so I took her home.”

According to MacPherson, Faith has several medical issues including incidents of choking and has been seen at the IWK children's hospital in Halifax.

"Dr. (Gamal) Mahdi couldn't even put the light down her esophagus, it was closed over so much. She had mash potatoes recently and choked on them. That's how bad it is. Her medications have to be liquified."

MacPherson said she has given documentation from Mahdi to the school.

In the documents, Mahdi describes Faith as having "significant inflammation in the lining of her esophagus which causes significant swallowing difficulties .... she requires lots of attention during mealtime at home and at school."

MacPherson has also provided letters form Faith's physiotherapist and occupational therapist which describe her as a "flight risk" and needing constant supervision.

When asked why she is not in school Faith said, ‘Because I don’t have a TA. I miss my friends and my TA too.”

Faith said she learns to read at school, likes gym, music and snack time.

Michelle Lucas, spokesperson for the Department of Education, said the department is working on this issue involving the Glace Bay girl.

“We are aware of this issue and have been actively working with the board to find the best solution. For privacy reasons, we can’t talk about individual cases and details.”

“The overall funding for teacher assistants was increased in the 2013-14 budget. Individual school boards are responsible for allocating teacher's aides."

Guidelines in Nova Scotia recommend one teaching assistant for every 104 students. There is currently one teaching assistant for every 73 students within the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board.

Wendy King, co-ordinator of human resources for the Cape Breton-Victoria board, said there is a program planning team at each school, which involves parents, administration and teachers.

She said support for students is always being evaluated and changes made when necessary.

"You want to try to provide as much support as needed, but only as necessary. You don't want to provide more support than they need, you want to encourage independence," she said.

“You want to celebrate the successes and give them every chance to be as independent as they can.”

Organizations: Glace Bay Elementary School, Department of Education, Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board.Wendy King Cape Breton-Victoria board

Geographic location: Halifax, Glace Bay, Nova Scotia

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Recent comments

  • Glenn Slade
    October 13, 2013 - 10:48

    I find it funny that the person with a comment does not have enough balls to put a real name there. When everybody else has put their name to their comment. Just saying!!!!!! Anyway, now that the Provincial election is over we all know the NDP made countless subtractions to the education system here in Nova Scotia, especially here in Cape Breton. Over the years i know lots of children with health issues that had one on one teacher assistants and benefited from their early age to their adult life. I don’t know the numbers but, I can guarantee on the other side of the Causeway no kids are in this position so why this child should be neglected when it comes to her education. Now that we have a new majority government it’s time to give the assets to these educational institutions especially here in Cape Breton so children in positions like these will not be neglected in their educational path to success. We all love our children and we will go to no end for them. This mother is doing no different than I would do, you would to do or, anybody would do. She is looking out for her child and that’s the way it should be. Keep the fight up Ms. MacPherson the” squeaky wheel get the grease”!!!!!! Happy Thanksgiving everyone…….

  • Glenn Slade
    October 13, 2013 - 10:47

    I find it funny that the person with a comment does not have enough balls to put a real name there. When everybody else has put their name to their comment. Just saying!!!!!! Anyway, now that the Provincial election is over we all know the NDP made countless subtractions to the education system here in Nova Scotia, especially here in Cape Breton. Over the years i know lots of children with health issues that had one on one teacher assistants and benefited from their early age to their adult life. I don’t know the numbers but, I can guarantee on the other side of the Causeway no kids are in this position so why this child should be neglected when it comes to her education. Now that we have a new majority government it’s time to give the assets to these educational institutions especially here in Cape Breton so children in positions like these will not be neglected in their educational path to success. We all love our children and we will go to no end for them. This mother is doing no different than I would do, you would to do or, anybody would do. She is looking out for her child and that’s the way it should be. Keep the fight up Ms. MacPherson the” squeaky wheel get the grease”!!!!!! Happy Thanksgiving everyone…….

  • Glenn Slade
    October 13, 2013 - 10:45

    I find it funny that the person with a comment does not have enough balls to put a real name there. When everybody else has put their name to their comment. Just saying!!!!!! Anyway, now that the Provincial election is over we all know the NDP made countless subtractions to the education system here in Nova Scotia, especially here in Cape Breton. Over the years i know lots of children with health issues that had one on one teacher assistants and benefited from their early age to their adult life. I don’t know the numbers but, I can guarantee on the other side of the Causeway no kids are in this position so why this child should be neglected when it comes to her education. Now that we have a new majority government it’s time to give the assets to these educational institutions especially here in Cape Breton so children in positions like these will not be neglected in their educational path to success. We all love our children and we will go to no end for them. This mother is doing no different than I would do, you would to do or, anybody would do. She is looking out for her child and that’s the way it should be. Keep the fight up Ms. MacPherson the” squeaky wheel get the grease”!!!!!! Happy Thanksgiving everyone…….

  • Glenn Slade
    October 13, 2013 - 10:39

    I find it funny that the person with a comment does not have enough balls to put a real name there. When everybody else has put their name to their comment. Just saying!!!!!! Anyway, now that the Provincial election is over we all know the NDP made countless subtractions to the education system here in Nova Scotia, especially here in Cape Breton. Over the years i know lots of children with health issues that had one on one teacher assistants and benefited from their early age to their adult life. I don’t know the numbers but, I can guarantee on the other side of the Causeway no kids are in this position so why this child should be neglected when it comes to her education. Now that we have a new majority government it’s time to give the assets to these educational institutions especially here in Cape Breton so children in positions like these will not be neglected in their educational path to success. We all love our children and we will go to no end for them. This mother is doing no different than I would do, you would to do or, anybody would do. She is looking out for her child and that’s the way it should be. Keep the fight up Ms. MacPherson the” squeaky wheel get the grease”!!!!!! Happy Thanksgiving everyone…….

  • Marlene
    October 13, 2013 - 08:19

    . I am sure part of Faith's ability to learn and interact with others is a plus for her if she has comfort and security with an Aid...What are the goals of education for children with Down syndrome? They are the same as for all other children; which is to equip children with Down syndrome to lead independent adult lives in the community. Most will need some degree of support from friends, family and services, but education will make a significant difference to the level of independence achieved in work, social and leisure life. To know that in Faith's case, she needs one for her medical condition. There are children who have one on one Aids for less than hers. You should be aware that Down Syndrome is a Genetic effect, but in Faith's case is more serious....Faith is a person, not a Syndrome

  • linda
    October 12, 2013 - 20:11

    As the parents of a daughter with special needs , we have been down your path. Our motto addressed to the system was "Pay now or pay later". It makes so much sense to help children with special needs than to "look after" them when they become adults. Everyone benefits. Best of luck Darlene and Faith. With perseverance you will succeed. Don't take "no" for an answer.......don't back down!!!

  • newsflash
    October 11, 2013 - 10:37

    Am I the only one who sees something wrong here? Does this mean that every child who could use a one on one TA should have their own personal one? And where does everyone get off saying that she has a right to an education... sure she does, and they are providing it! It's just that mom wants more exclusive education. Please. Way to sensationalize your daughter and parade her in the media... that will do wonders down the road.

    • Lisa McSavaney
      October 11, 2013 - 16:58

      When you know nothing about this or the child you should not judge I know the child very well and when the Doctors in Halifax tell you that your child should never be left unattended at 11 years old you never take them to school to be left alone if the mother just wanted to leave her somewhere she could take her to the mall let me guess you do not have children or you do not have a child with special needs please do not judge until you know all the facts Thank you

    • Darlene Macpherson
      October 11, 2013 - 17:45

      I sure hope it will do wonders down the road. Not only for faith but for every child that needs a one on one . And if you really believe what you are saying then please put your name behind it.

    • Lily
      October 11, 2013 - 17:51

      Newsflash, do not stand behind a stage name. Put your real name there.

    • Darlene Macpherson
      October 11, 2013 - 22:10

      In regards to your comment news flash. I hope it will do wonders for faith and all children that need a one on one TA down the road.And yes I do want more for faith.The difference in you and I you hide behind what you believe and I Stand up for what I believe in and I do believe in my daughter

  • Sheri McPhee
    October 10, 2013 - 20:20

    As a society we have become complacent and accepting as services slowly get taken away, cuts to the education system should not be carried out on the backs of our children. Kudos to Darlene for taking action and standing up for Faith's rights.

  • Lynn Vingar
    October 10, 2013 - 12:02

    Keep up fight Darlene and Faith! And know that your family supports you 110% in this matter!

  • Tara Evans
    October 09, 2013 - 23:46

    What is this world coming too. We are talking about a child that wants to go to school. Dar, you keep that fight up. You be Faith's voice!! Your Ontarian Family is with you every step of the way!! Come on Nova Scotia do this...faith and other children are our future and it is their rights to get the education they DESERVE!!

  • Tara Evans
    October 09, 2013 - 23:40

    Keep that fight going Dar. Every child has a right to be educated, special needs or not! you do what you must to ensure the safety, well being and care for your amazing daughter. Your Ontarian Family is here standing right beside you for every step! Come on Nova Scotia, let's get Faith back in school with the PROPER care she is ENTITLED too. Xo

  • Elaine
    October 09, 2013 - 23:22

    Stay strong Darlene & Faith!!! How can someone over rule a Doctor, when he states Faith is in danger of choking!! Faith should be safe while at school, and her mother should not be at home worrying that she may come to harm if her aid is attending another child!!! We cannot let this happen!!

  • Trina Burchell
    October 09, 2013 - 21:00

    This is disgraceful, to have to read about something like this in the paper. I would think that something to this magnitude, and the affect it will play on a child’s life would be dealt with in the first few days it was presented to the school. When Faith is at home and not in school where she should be, who knows what emotional and social effects this will play in her everyday life? This little girl should be shown the respect she deserves and know that her education is of the up most importance to everyone! Everyone has the right to an equal education and whatever needs to be done to provide that should have been done before the school year started. The only person who is suffering from this is Faith, and that is unfair to her. So again I say it is dishearten and disgraceful to have to read something like this in the paper that involves our community.

  • Valerie Loveys
    October 09, 2013 - 20:28

    Darlene , congratulations on your efforts to advocate for children with special needs. Canada is a country that preaches, No Child Left Behind. Refusing your daughter the rights to a one-on-one aid, is restricting her from advancing in the classroom to her full potential. Perhaps this issue should be brought to the attention of , the Minister of Education Carol Olsen, (902) 424-5643. Continue to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. .Love and Prayers

  • Ashley
    October 09, 2013 - 19:51

    The children of Nova Scotia deserve better than this. Faith deserves better than this. I understand that our government has been forced to make education cuts, but some things should never be cut. Essential care is one of them. Faith deserves the one on one care that she is accustomed to. She deserves to be able to go to school, make friends, and to just be a kid. The only solution that the Dept of Ed needs to come up with is getting Faith, and all other special needs kids, the proper care and attention they need.

  • Tanya
    October 09, 2013 - 19:25

    First of all,yes they did give more money ,but guess what? It's the money they took a few yrs ago.So we r no further ahead.Drastic changes need to be done for more TA's.

  • Linda Vingar
    October 09, 2013 - 17:17

    Keep the fight going Darlene and Faith! I think that the one on one teachers aide is a great thing for Faith she love going to school What is wrong with the school board faith was doing really well and she loved to go to school. There is something just not right with this system. Linda, Fort Mac Murray Alberta

  • Ron LeBlanc
    October 09, 2013 - 16:38

    Darlene & Faith....Keep up the fight you have the right for your child to be educated..the school board should look at everyone,s individual needs...as a former Cape Bretoner now living in Ontario I,m ashamed to hear this kind of neglect is going on.

  • Lynn oliver
    October 09, 2013 - 15:02

    Keep fighting Darlene and Faith! Cut backs always seem to affect those who need services the most and who can't always fight for themselves. Darlene is a wonderful advocate for her daughter! Shame on the education system for letting faith down.

  • Margie MacDougall
    October 09, 2013 - 12:45

    I think it is an utter disgrace that Faith lost her one on one TA. My grandson is Autistic, attends the Learning Center and is a classmate of Faith's, and has lost his one on one as well. These children deserve to be safe in their school environment. Cut backs is not the answer! Most of these children love school, their classmates and surroundings. For some it may be the only socialization where they don't feel different and can be happy just being who they are.I agree independence may be the goal at the end of the journey for most but the roads do they need to travel to get there should have fewer bumps. Faith I hope you get your TA so you can get back to your friends and learning. These children do not deserve to get lost in the system .

  • Amber Brown
    October 09, 2013 - 11:54

    My son Dean is in the same class and also lost his 1 on 1 TA this year. I've really noticed a difference this year he is not doing as well. He needs a lot of prompting to do things so without it he's just not doing as much. It's a sin that they cut the money from special needs children who need the extra help.

  • Lori Gould
    October 09, 2013 - 09:27

    The very same thing happened to me Darlene with my daughter Vicki a couple of years ago, you may want to set up a Program Planning Team at the school, there should be one there. It's a meeting discussing what the staff there thinks what meets Faith's needs.... She definitely needs a ONE ON ONE AID, not sharing aids and being bopped around from aid to aid. She is a high flight risk and needs the proper care and 100% fulltime aid... Thanx for sharing, hope that helps.... Good luck!

  • Lily MacDonald
    October 09, 2013 - 08:40

    Well done Darlene and Faith. Keep fighting. I agree with Darlene that Faith should have her own aid. As her Mom states she is a high risk for choking(if the aid is busy with other child during meal times) She is also a high flight risk and if she got out of her protected environment she could be hurt in some way. This could also cause many ripple effects if that should happen. All children deserve to feel safe when they go to school and they deserve to have an education that is planned for them. Faith is an eager beaver and wants to be in school. Please help make this decision easier for her Mom by giving her her own TA.Thank you.