PC advocate for children with autism says we need “a system that works for all students”
WATERLOO REGION — Don’t tell local MPP Amy Fee that French immersion is too difficult for children with special education needs. Two of her children have special needs.
Her children are not enrolled in French immersion, which is not available at their school. But they do not struggle with languages.
“I can tell you that my children are quite involved in their French programs. They’ve also been involved in Spanish programs,” said Fee, who represents Kitchener-South Hespeler and has been made a parliamentary assistant by the new Tory government, asked to advocate for children with autism.
“I can only speak to my own children. But they have been able to cope,” she said. “One especially has excelled in second languages.”
French immersion is a popular program, but it comes with a few problems. Among them: children with special needs are two to three times more common in regular classrooms.
It is “something that we’re going to need to look at, but again it comes back to working with those front lines, and then working with what parents are looking for, for their children, and putting together a system that bests supports all students,” Fee said.
“We need to work toward making sure that it’s an education system that works for all students, including those with special needs.”
Schools need to do more to bring children with special needs into French immersion or keep them there, the Ministry of Education said in 2015.
Fee is a former trustee with the Waterloo Catholic District School Board. She supported the board’s launch of a French immersion program three years ago.
“For me, it’s about parents’ options. But also, studies have shown that giving children the option of having a second language and learning a second language improves their education overall,” she said.