Friday, December 08, 2006

Autism & Mainstreaming

Each day, when my kids get home, I ask them,"What really great thing happened today?" and then I ask them,"Did anything bad happen?" (I don't know if you noticed, but "How was your day?" gets grunts and blank stares.)

My autistic son's response is usually "I played 4-square with my friends. Nothing bad." Today was different. Today he said, "Something bad happened today." Uh oh. "X pushed the teacher over and kicked her and hurt her. She fell on the floor." The boy in question has serious behavioral problems, but is doing better this year. I guess. So the teachers say.

Three years. That's what I think. Three years from now, he will be in Middle School where the behavior problems from multiple elementary schools converge with the most sensitive, sweet and delicate of children--those on the Autism spectrum.

For the life of me, I haven't understood why schools put these to student subspecies together, but it's done everywhere. And it's stupid. I call it The Future Bullies of America with The Future Bullied of America.

Now some ASD children also have behavior problems, but they are rare. And their behavior is not Oppositional for Oppositional sake. A well-thought-out behavioral plan can help these children avoid the stressful place that often triggers non-compliant behavior. Many of these children, at least the ones in the school where my son attends, are not stupid. They could function in a mainstream environment with some assistance.

That brings me to problem #2: the school system hiding behind IEPs. (Individual Education Plans) IEPs provide teachers and administrators legal cover--they are not required to even attempt to keep the child at age-appropriate curriculum. They can set the bar unconscionably low and crow about the child "exceeding expectations" while simultaneously patting their own backs for stellar teaching.

All the paperwork, meetings, rules and regulations and legalese have become a clever way for schools to avoid their responsibilities to these kids. To me, mainstreaming is the only solution--albeit a difficult one for the child because the regular classroom is often louder and more chaotic (but as my son experienced today, not always) than the special ed room. Some of these special kids--especially the ones at the high end of the spectrum--would have caught up to class because a concerned teacher would push the kid to succeed. He might be viewed as a "little different", but he would be expected to perform academically.

The Special Ed system provides cover for inept and unmotivated systems that want to pass a special needs child through as quickly as possible.

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