permanent criticisms of the “school system”

Carlo Hanau is based on a story set in a primary school in the capital Milan, about a student with autism spectrum disorder, and focuses, among other things, on the “dramatic unpreparedness of the” school system “to counter the growing increase in children with autism spectrum disorders”, as well as on the “forgetfulness” of the “school system” itself “in the training of tutors”, and recalls a number of legislative tools that families can use to see their children’s rights recognized

I take as my starting point a story that takes place in a primary school in the capital city of Milan, in order to highlight a number of critical issues that are present throughout Italian territory: a family with a children with autism it struggles to see the rights respected that the “school system” does not recognize. I have been following this family for several years and I have already had the opportunity to write on the same pages about the difficulties encountered primary school (at this link).
The family has chosen for their child one of the strategies based on Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), which is currently the only form of education recommended by Guideline No. 21 (The treatment of autism spectrum disorders in children and adolescents), as they are the ones with the greatest efficiency and effectiveness. Choices whose goodness is confirmed by the results obtained on the child and whose legitimacy has already been confirmed also in this specific case of a Judge at the court in Milan.
In order to get the supervisor’s and therapists’ admission, the family was forced to change school on the occasion of the transition from kindergarten to primary school and to have full coverage, it had to intervene at FSO (Scholastic Office Territoriale) and Municipality of Milan, which allocated a support teacher in 22 hours per week and a specialist assistant for autonomy and communication for 13 hours.
At this point, everyone is happy and satisfied? No, because the hours are necessary but not sufficient condition to ensure good inclusion.

That first problem which has manifested and is manifested in many educational institutions is the acceptance of the choice of ABA made by the family. It does not do much good to bring scientific evidence. Unfortunately, as opposed to the insurances given prior to enrollmenthas “the system”, since the early days of the school, refused to accept the strategy based on ABA as an educational model, which gives a pretext for this decision as to the detriment of the teacher’s right to have his teaching freedom recognized. In this case, the specialist assistant had a degree in psychodynamically oriented psychology, which apparently led to an a priori rejection of the particular psychoeducational strategies based on ABA, which reinforced the resistance that the teachers had already shown. Without forgetting that there are still psychologists and teachers trained at the time when they believed in the notorious hypothesis of the “refrigerator mother” as the cause of autism.
Here it must be immediately pointed out that the freedom of instruction invoked by the teachers it is not and can not be an unlimited right, but rather has as its first restriction the protection of pupils: Article 31 of the Constitution, which provides that the republic protects children and young people, actually entails the protection of pupils. Freedom of education can certainly not harm the right to education, the choice of which is up to the parents. The right to vote should all the more apply to students with disabilities, a fundamental right protected by the articles 7 (Minors with disabilities) And 24 (Education) of UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, ratified by Italy by Law 18/09. Furthermore, the basic right to health, which is provided for in section 32 of the Constitution, must be considered to be valid, as special education in these cases it also means to activate.

To justify its action, the “system” specifically defines ABA as if it were a therapeutic intervention reserved for healthcare professionals and to be performed outside of school. On the contrary, this particular psychoeducational intervention it is not reserved for healthcare professionals and requires it collaboration between teachers and family members.
On these false premises, therefore, the “system” often prevents the access of the supervisor responsible for the enabling project and his “technicians” from the ABA (in English acronym RBT), which corresponds to our specialist assistants for autonomy and communication (AEC); or, as in this specific case, it “reduces” their role to merely observers. In other cases, the school workers themselves become mere passive observers of the work of the experts chosen by the family.
It is obvious that the lack of cooperation on the implementation of the habilitation project, which must be a synergistic concert between all those around the child, can seriously affect its future development and in any case, it is a waste of the resources made available by the public budget.

But what tools families have to see their children’s rights recognized?
Already in 2013 The court in Bolognaat the initiative of the writer, then president of ANGSA Bologna (then the National Association of Autistic Parents), had first sanctioned a family’s right to use a tutor specializing in the ABA-VB method in school (Used Behavior Analysis and verbal behavior) with BCBA certification (Board-certified assistant behavioral analyst) for a 3-hour monthly participation at the expense of AUSL. So recently TAR of Campania (Regional Administrative Court) recognized with sentence 3216/20 the right of minors with autism to a benefit from ABA-based therapies even during school hours, in the presence of the “technicians” whose access had not been approved “for reasons of space” due to the COVID emergency and as “strangers at school”.

The “school system” is dramatically unprepared to face increasing increase in children with autism spectrum disordersas Istituto Superiore di Sanità already registers is 1 in 77 and is expected to reach the level in the US (1 in 44 in the 2018 survey by the CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network – USA, also in age of 8).
And again, these would mean that you have to spend for these processes train support teachers and designates, as in this case, a teacher without formal and substantial specialization for the specific disability. I draw attention to that very many Judges they have already spoken on the importance of the specialization of tutors, and in this connection I quote below two important reference sentences.
That Minister of State, with sentence 5851/18 stated that “the support teacher must possess the concrete knowledge that enables an effective and optimal performance of his function, precisely with reference to the disability that he experiences working towards”. And again: “Otherwise, if one believes, then the figure as a support teacher could be reduced to a clean and useless presence, as it is not suitable to favor the integration and deployment of the disabled in school context and thus ensure the full fulfillment of the goals education and training, which the educational institution must guarantee ‘.
That TAR of Campaniawith sentence 7990/21, stated that for autistic students, the School Administration is obliged to assign a specialized support teacher who possesses specific technical and professional skills on the ABA training method.

Corresponding many local authoritiesresponsible for allocating specialist assistants for autonomy and communication, prepare notices in which specialization is not required and ABA, something that immediately took place in this Milan affair as well, so much so that some judges have already had to rule on condemning them. In particular, I consider the following procedures to be a reference:
° Den TAR of Calabriawith sentence 438/12, he argued that the assistant should be trained to respond to the student’s specific assistance needs and can not be a generic assistant.
° Den TAR of Campania, with sentence 1452/19, confirmed the obligation of a municipality to appoint an assistant adequately trained in the ABA method. Among the reasons, it is explicitly stated that “the assistant position should be filled by qualified staff, because otherwise it would be a direct violation of constitutional values, since the services to be provided for the benefit of disabled students would simply be apparent (e.g. for a A hearing-impaired student needs an assistant who understands sign language, while other skills are needed if there are other disabilities. “This sentence is more than justified when the student’s parents are both” signatories “to LIS (Italian Sign Language) and choose this mode to communicate with their child.
For the training of specialist assistants in autonomy and communication and supervisors who are suitable for applying the interventions recommended by Guideline No. 21 on autism, among other things, it is proposed to follow the same procedures as were adopted in the very recent Prime Minister’s Decree (DPCM) of January 10th this year on the training of experts in LIS and LIST (Tactile Sign Language).
In a similar way, universities could be encouraged to hire expert teachers to set up not only annual masters but also three-year and master’s programs on these special psychopedagogical strategies based on ABAthrough funds of over 7 and a half million euros allocated to autism training, which should involve all operators caring for people with autism and their families, as has been the case since 2003 in the Marche region.

For the child in Milan, there could be a turning point in the whole story: actually involved by the family, the Ministry of Education he predicted send an inspector who is to assess the reports made and in particular the inadequacy of the support figures (support teacher and specialist assistant for autonomy and communication), which in addition to being in conflict with the specific legislation on school inclusion, also constitute a discriminatory behavior legally relevant according to Law 67/06 [“Misure per la tutela giudiziaria delle persone con disabilità vittime di discriminazioni”, N.d.R.].
I hope that this action, which unfortunately comes at the end of the school year, can correct “system” operation and avoid the family being forced to turn to a judge, after having done so successfully to obtain compensation for the interventions that the Nazikonale Health Service is unable to provide.

Chairman of APRI (Cimadori Association for Italian Research on Down Syndrome, Autism and Brain Damage).

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