Parent of child with autism feels ‘forgotten’ in Quebec’s back-to-school plans

Next week is officially back to school for Giancarlo Rodriguez, but his family has decided that at least for now, the eight-year-old won’t be attending.

Giancarlo is autistic. He’s a student at Summit School, a private school in Montreal for children with special needs.

His mother says, though she likes the school and is confident in the staff, she’s upset that the provincial government didn’t release specific protocols for kids like hers.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: It’s back to school for some Montreal-area students

“As parents, we’re just getting emails saying, ‘rest assured that we’re taking all the measures necessary’, but besides that, we’re not actually getting anything concrete to actually comfort us,” said Elena Jennifer Montecalvo.

The mother of two says directives like wearing masks, hand hygiene and possibly a change in the way her son gets to school are all things he doesn’t understand.

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On top of that, Giancarlo has a medical condition, but is not eligible for an exemption.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Parents, teachers, students protest Quebec’s back-to-school plans

“He has a lot of sensory issues – he touches everything – he puts his hands to his mouth excessively, and so we’re really worried about the contamination,” said Montecalvo.

Child developmental pediatrician Dr. Emmett Francoeur said after reading the back-to-school guidelines, he too noticed a lack of specifics for special needs children.

At the end of the day, Dr. Francoeur said, it will be up to those closest to the child to help them adapt to the new reality.

READ MORE:Coronavirus: Quebec doctors urge re-think of province’s back-to-school plan in open letter

“It’s really going to be up to the parents and the teachers of the schools to follow the general guidelines as much as they can, but be ready to adapt in a reasonable and logical fashion,” he said.

In an email to Global News, the school’s director general said that they are “very sensitive” to those who are nervous about returning, and “they have taken the utmost resources and directives to offer their students a safe environment.”

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READ MORE: Lawsuit to challenge Quebec back to school plan requiring in person attendance

Still, Montecalvo said she wants more reassurance.

“There’s just a lot of up in the air, so it’s disappointing,” she said. “As parents of special needs kids, we just always feel like we’re forgotten.”

Global news has reached out to the Education Ministry for comment, but has yet to hear back.

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