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

Teresa Wright
Published on April 29, 2014
Brooklyn Mavis
Screen shot from Global TV

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.