Something Special Happened
The heart cry of the special needs families in the home education community, to be seen and treated as equals, has finally been heard and responded to. It is with a thankful and joyful heart that we are able to confirm that special needs families will have access to supports equal to that of the public system. AHEA has worked hard to see that this issue was addressed. Our discussions specific to this topic started in July of 2020. AHEA has had two very specific goals in our advocacy - philosophical agreement and practical action, as explained in our previous article A Special Report. Our initial focus was refined to one very clear and pointed question:
The answer to our question was clearly given within the Throne Speech delivered by the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta on February 22, 2022. It was an exciting moment when these words were heard…
"A growing number of Alberta families are choosing homeschooling as the best choice for their families, but many home-schooled children with special needs cannot access services that are available in the public school system.
"Access to specialized services will be expanded to home education families through a new program to ensure all children in Alberta, regardless of educational choice, receive the supports they need to be successful."
We had seen some initial movement on this issue this last fall, which was encouraging. However, the fact is that the practical action was still of help to some families and not all, and not as full in scope as we wished. We wanted to see the kind of course correction that will result in more than a nod in the direction of home education families. Our idea of the practical side of this question had seen us focus on requesting three specific items:
access to assessments, speech therapy and physical therapy. We are now pleased to have word from Alberta Education, after the budget was released, that their updated position will be much more thorough and provide the coverage we were seeking.
Through this new program, the government will provide resources, virtual parent learning sessions, evaluations and coordinated consultations with speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists, behavioural and mental health therapists, and psychologists. These new supports are intended to ensure that ANY student, whose families have notified the government that they are home educating, will have equitable access to assessments and supports. These will correspond to those provided by a school board or independent school. Further details of this program and when home education parents can begin accessing it will be available by mid-March. The government has an ongoing focus on a long-term cross-ministry solution, which should prove helpful in resolving some knotty access issues.
Many, many families have shared their stories with AHEA. Our community has cared that by choosing home education, these families with special needs were no longer eligible to access supports. I personally will never forget reading the words explaining that 'zero supports' were available for these families. And yet, they chose to home educate anyway. It was the right choice for their child, their family and their commitment to both has shone in their perseverance. It has been an honour for AHEA to lend our voice to the efforts over the years to resolve this punitive policy, and defend true choice being upheld.
AHEA wishes to thank those that worked with us to this end – Minister LaGrange and the Department of Education, Premier Kenney and his office, and the numerous MLAs across the province who met with us and supported our proposals. AISCA's work provides the critical avenue for access that was needed. Most importantly, we thank the tireless efforts of the community over the years who inspired us to never give up and to speak up! God allowed us to have the opportunity to champion your needs. We can only encourage you to continue to keep speaking up… You make something special happen every day and the future just got a little brighter.
AHEA is an independent voice for parents that home educate, though our work often has far reaching implications in supporting and advocating for choice, parental rights and the family in general. If you would like to support AHEA in our efforts please click here.
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