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Boy's problems bringing iPad to school a bigger issue, autism advocate says

Last Updated Oct 24, 2017 at 11:34 pm EDT

The mother of a non-verbal, six-year-old boy with autism said until CityNews got involved, his Brampton school would not allow him to bring his iPad to class — the best way for him to communicate and express his needs. 

Tara Bourgeois said she had been asking Homestead Public School for the concession since the beginning of the year, and officials kept putting her off.

She claimed taking away his mode of communication left her son Justin frustrated and has hindered his school year. He uses an app that speaks for him as he points at pictures.

“Sometimes I have to do a nudge on the arm, but most times when the iPad is in his view he knows to use it,” Bourgeois said.

Bourgeois said on Friday, the school’s principal again said Justin could not bring the iPad to class, and that’s when she reached out to CityNews.  

Within two hours of CityNews contacting the Peel District School Board, the principal called Bourgeois and said her son could bring the iPad to class after all.

“We regret the length of time it has taken to review the request,” said Ted Byers, the board’s superintendent of special education support services.

“We are investigating the concerns and will be connecting with the parent tomorrow to learn more.”

The incident highlights the many struggles parents of children with autism have with school boards across the province, according to Bruce McIntosh, president of the Ontario Autism Coalition.

The group recently conducted a survey of 4,000 families of children with autism. McIntosh said the results show a pattern of roadblocks for parents fighting for their children.   

“The special education system in Ontario is not serving the needs of the students that it’s supposed to help,” said McIntosh. “We’re finding that parents have to constantly fight in order to get what ought to be automatically provided.”

The Ontario Autism Coalition is holding a rally at Queen’s Park this Thursday to highlight the issue.