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Concerns of local parents of autistic students clarified

by Larry S. Chowning

Two recent Sentinel articles on autistic students in the Middlesex County School System, one in the April 25 Sentinel titled “Parents voice concern over education of autistic students,” and the other in the May 2 issue titled “School superintendent responds to autistic education concerns” has warranted some clarification.

The April 25 article reported on an April 18 board of supervisors public hearing on the FY14 budget. At that meeting two parents of autistic children voiced concerns over the way the school system handles children with special needs.

School superintendent Dr. Thomas Taylor was not at that meeting, but responded to these concerns at an April 25 board of supervisors meeting. One of the concerns was that student transport vehicles do not have proper air-conditioning. Dr. Taylor responded that all Middlesex County student transport vehicles have air-conditioning.

The issue, however, according to parent Kim Dubeau of Remlik, is that the air-conditioning system in at least one of the old cars used to transport children from Middlesex to Richmond does not properly disperse air so that it cools the back seat where children are seated.

In another issue, Jack Bullock of Hartfield, who home-schools his autistic child but also has had his child attending Middlesex schools from time to time, voiced his concern at the April 18 meeting. After reading the May 2 article, he noted that the school superintendent was not clear in his response to a question by supervisor Carlton Revere concerning whether parents of children with special needs had brought their concerns “publicly” to the “entire” Middlesex County School Board. Dr. Taylor said they had not.

Bullock said in a telephone interview on Monday that individual school board members are “well aware” of the concerns of parents of autistic children, and whether it was brought to the board as a whole should not be an issue, he

Also, Dubeau noted that the Sentinel article on April 25 left out one of her main points that she brought up at the April 18 meeting. She said that if the county school system is going to continue to drive autistic students to Richmond and outside of the county to classes, that the drivers of these vehicles need to be trained in responding to the concerns and needs of these students. She noted that back-up drivers should also have that training.

posted 05.08.2013

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