Students in difficulty | Immediate help before “serial diagnostics”

Too busy diagnosing learning disabilities, specialists who work in public schools—psychologists, psycho-educators, speech therapists, and remedial educators—have run out of time to help students, who are often abandoned or referred to the private sector. The government thinks this nonsense has gone on long enough. Trade unions and professional associations have long thought that way. Will the revolution take place?

Posted 4 Oct. 2021

Louise Leduc

Louise Leduc
The press

“There’s no turning back. †

In a telephone interview with The pressis Jean-François Robberge, Minister of Education, formally.

“Psychologists, speech therapists, psycho-educators said to us: ‘Let’s work with young people, drop the codes,’ notes Mr. Robert up.

Here’s what he says he’s determined to do: to limit the number of diagnoses and student codes and maximize the assistance.

What may seem logical, however, calls for a 180-degree culture shift.

It is that over the years “school has become a machine for diagnosing learning and behavioral disorders, so that “we never intervene at the beginning, when the learning problem is still small”, laments Jacques Landry, president of the Federation of Education Professionals of Quebec, affiliated with the CSQ.

In Quebec, more than one in four students is considered disabled or has a learning or behavioral problem.

Affluent families who have insurance, Mr. Landry notes, must pay thousands of dollars to have their child with learning disabilities receive specialist help in the private sector. The others have to expect services from their school that often don’t come.

“It has created a two-tier system that moves away from the universality of services,” laments Mr Landry.


PHOTO PHILIPPE BOIVIN, SPECIAL COOPERATION

Martin Le Blanc had to turn to the private sector for his son with language impairments to get the services of a specialist.

Martin Le Blanc can confirm this. At the crèche we did not ‘escape’ her son. His language difficulties were soon addressed and he had regular follow-ups.

When he went to kindergarten, nothing.

“For three years I paid $125 every two weeks so that my son, today in 2and secondary, consult a private system specialist. †

The apprentice, “an instrument”

Over the years, the student has become “the instrument” of a system that “plays the game of private clinics and union demands,” notes Julien Prud’homme, professor at the University of Quebec at Trois-Rivières and specialist in history. expertise in health and education.

Very often codes and diagnoses are used not so much to know what the student needs, but to calculate task ratios, to negotiate collective agreements or to give the impression that we are taking action.

Julien Prud’homme, professor at the University of Quebec in Trois-Rivières

Denis Leclerc, president of the Order of Psycho-Educators and Psycho-Educators, also notes this.

So far ‘professionals are doing assessments to identify problem young people so that the government knows how much money to give’ [aux écoles]but this money is too often used to make more diagnoses.”

Go for the diagnoses (of dysorthography, dyslexia or others) when they are needed to help the child, but there is no doubt that they just continue to “feed the machine or respond to a bureaucratic obligation”, Minister Robberge insists .

According to Julien Prud’homme, the government has no choice but to intervene. “With the individual disorder approach based on serial diagnoses, it is certain that we will never have enough resources,” especially since a large number of specialists have already left the public system.


PHOTOGRAPH ALAIN ROBERGE, LA PRESSE ARCHIVES

Jean-François Roberge, Minister of Education

When the government asked school service centers to only diagnose really necessary cases last year, they continued their momentum. “They thought we would only suspend this for a year or two and they would have a mountain of diagnoses to catch up on,” explains Minister Roberge.

The ministry therefore reiterated this year that they no longer have to “provide evidence about the limitations of students”. […]† The time freed up in this way can be reinvested to support the students,” we read in the instructions sent to the school service centers.

But how can you ‘unravel’ the collective labor agreements of teachers, which stipulate, for example, that a student with a serious learning disability counts for two?

No question of “bundling lessons”

Many things are yet to be determined, but in an interview on The pressJean-François Roberge makes sure teachers have no reason to fear that the process aims to “pack up classes” by denying students’ problems.

The basic idea, he reiterates, is to bring school principals, teachers and parents together and see how children can be helped as directly as possible.

But much has already been done. “We will have 52 fewer psychologists in schools in April 2021 than in 2014,” said Christine Grou, president of the Quebec Order of Psychologists.

“School psychologists are tired of spending time in their cars between three or more different schools, putting out fires, instead of dedicating themselves to observations and interventions [directes auprès des enfants]† †

“Three-quarters of speech therapists in the private sector work with school-age clients,” illustrates Paul-André Gallant, president of the Association of Speech Therapists.

Jacques Landry applauds the change of course initiated by the government, but that does not solve everything. Salary differences, he points out, aren’t likely to bring specialists back to school or retain those who are also tempted to work in private clinics.

241,509

Number of primary and secondary school pupils considered to have a disability or learning or behavioral disorder

Source: Ministry of Education

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