Autism Society hopes for resolution between B.C. teen, exhange program

Teresa Wright
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Brooklyn Mavis

The president of the Autism Society of P.E.I. says he is disappointed to hear a B.C. student feels she was discriminated against by a Prince Edward Island school.

Jeff Himelman says the society fully supports Brooklyn Mavis and hopes to see appropriate accommodation made to allow her to come to P.E.I. and feel welcome here.

“It’s an unfortunate situation to see a young student put through this kind of an ordeal,” Himelman said.

“Participating in school exchanges are an important step in socializations in children with autism spectrum disorder, and those can be really positive building experiences for their character and their confidence and their ability to interact with their peers.”

Mavis was scheduled to take part in a class exchange trip to P.E.I., but her trip was cancelled after she suffered a complex seizure during an outing last month.

School officials in P.E.I. felt she was “not currently able to meet the mandate of the exchange with regards to social interaction” with her P.E.I. peers, according to a letter from Bluefield High School.


“Brooklyn’s inability to cope with the physical stress of an exchange was also a factor in our decision,” the letter states, which was signed by school principal Jerry Coady, Cynthia Shoemaker, Bluefield’s inclusive education specialist, and Paul McCarron, the school’s co-ordinator for SEVEC (Society for Educational Visits and Exchanges in Canada), the organization that planned the exchange.

Himelman stressed he is not familiar with the details of the case, but he said he is perplexed by the information that has been reported in the media.

“From what I understand this came to a head in reaction to an incident that Brooklyn experienced in her home school of British Columbia,” Himelman said, referencing Mavis’ seizure.

“It just seems like a bit of an overreaction to a situation that didn’t necessarily pose safety risks to anybody.”

Since Mavis and her mother have gone public, many autism support groups are raising concern over the P.E.I. school system’s handling of this situation.

Organizations: Autism Society of P.E.I., Bluefield High School, P.E.I. school

Geographic location: Prince Edward Island, Brooklyn, Canada British Columbia

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Recent comments

  • patrick m pickering
    April 30, 2014 - 18:56

    In this era I can not understand such bigatry, blatant discrimination of a social order; for shame. This Child needed the interaction and would benefit from such contact. Mr. Jeff Himelman may say what he wants but no more than empty words in response to such shameful actions.

  • She deserves respect
    April 29, 2014 - 16:13

    Poor kid. You would think she had rabies. Many people have disabilities and set backs but are entitled to live and enjoy life as much as the next person. And with some compromise and assistance they can. Hats off to them. Educate yourselves on disabilities and stop preaching anti bullying if you indeed practice bullying yourselves. In the paper it said a teacher wanted an apology? Geez. Really?

  • don
    April 29, 2014 - 08:53

    the school board and the little principle is what you call hypocrites. and they just gave pei A BLACK EYE. they are a DISGRACE to all islanders and should be moved from the jobs of looking after our kids.

  • Responsible Parent
    April 29, 2014 - 08:34

    Decision are often not popular with children that are made in their best interest. As is the case here. If this was your child would you even consider senting themthousands of miles away??? To me it sounds like we have some adults acting like children.

    • Tanya
      April 29, 2014 - 11:57

      You mean allow them to participate in something that only "normal" kids should be allowed to do?? The girl only wants to be treated fairly; she saved her money, they disclosed all of her medical information when applying and she was accepted into the program. Our son has Autism and including him in activities with his peers has helped him so much socially. He has Gone from siTting in a corner not making eye contact to hugging friends he's made in school. Good for this mother trying to give her daughter the type of life all kids deserve.

    • Steve
      April 29, 2014 - 11:59

      So you think you know more what is best for the girl than her own mother?

    • JM
      April 29, 2014 - 12:00

      If you watch the story you will realize that her mother was initially to come with her, but that option was taken away by the PEI end. The fact that Brooklyn was then going to be expected to stay "in a hotel by herself" was the breaking point for the family. So I guess the answer is "NO this family would NOT send their child thousands of miles away!

    • kimberly
      April 29, 2014 - 13:11

      Dear Responsible parent, I would as a mother make sure my daughter could handle the trip ...and these trips are educational so i as a mother would want my daughter to have all the same rights as your son or daughter. read the story her mother was coming with her....this is a DISGRACE .

    • responsible parent
      April 29, 2014 - 17:26

      Of course children with autism or any other disorder inclusion is paramount. I was more under the impression that the decision was based on a medical condition. More specifically a seizure that occurred at a hockey game. If no one feels comfortable to deal with a potential medical situation that could happen in there home what is the school board to do? The exchange program dictates the rules not the school board so why is PEI getting the brunt of the blame here? I don't feel that her autism is why this decision was made, if that was the case she would of never been accepted to participate from the get go.

  • charles
    April 29, 2014 - 06:57

    Welcome to the Gentle Island