Mount Royal family feels 'pushed out' of autistic son's daycare

A family in the Town of Mount Royal says they feel their son is being pushed out of his private Montessori daycare.

Theo is two years old. He was diagnosed with autism in the spring, and his family says he was doing well at Garderie Académie Montessori Coeur, Ame et Esprit TMR.

“Every hour of the morning is extremely structured and that works really well for a kid with autism because it provides a lot of learning opportunities for them,” said Theo’s mother, Melis Bursin.

Viki McArthur, Theo’s therapist, agrees.

She says that Theo’s autism can make it difficult for him to complete tasks, and often needs physical assistance, or as McArthur calls it, “physical redirection.”

She says that when she first met him, he needed to be redirected about 60 times per hour.

“At the end of July, he was down to about seven times per hour,” said McArthur.

In light of his progress, she evaluated Theo and found that he only needs a part-time support worker, also called a shadow.

But despite the evaluation, the family says the daycare told them Theo can’t attend unless he has a full-time shadow.

“So, basically [from] 8:30 in the morning to 4:30 in the afternoon that I pick him up, he will need someone [with him full-time], otherwise he can't attend,” said Bursin, who says the shadow’s extra time is costly.

“So, this is automatically an extra two grand on top of everything that we're paying,” she said.

“It's getting to a point where it feels like we're being pushed out.”

CTV contacted the daycare for an interview, but the request was denied.

What’s more, Theo’s regular shadow, who had been trained by McArthur’s staff, has been hired by the daycare.

“That person was hired by myself, trained by my staff and all of this was paid-for by the family,” she told CTV.

“When [the daycare] saw how trained and knowledgeable this person recently had become, they hired her.”

“She was hired full-time and Theo lost his shadow and then the daycare turned around and said ‘your kid doesn't have a shadow, he can't come to our daycare anymore’.”

'THE DEMAND KEEPS GOING UP': INDUSTRY IN NEED OF AUTISM TRAINING

Advocates say there is a great need for autism training among early education staff.

“Training of educators is critical,” said Warren Greenstone, President and CEO of The Miriam Foundation, which offers early intervention services for children under the age of six.

“Daycares are seeing more and more children coming to them with autism, they provide and important stepping stone to the school system,” he said. “Educators need to be trained in working with [those] children.”

“The demand keeps going up, the incident rate of autism keeps going up and it's a real challenge,” said Greenstone.

Bursin says the family is in search of another daycare to provide Theo with the socialization they say he needs.

“He needs to be with other kids,” she said. “He needs that day-to-day learning experience.” 

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