I read a recent post on Disability Scoop that talked about a new study. You know me and research – my geekiness knows no bounds.
This study looked at what general education teachers think about educating kids with autism. I had to reread the story at first, shaking my head as I did so.
The nutshell: teachers in this small pilot study said they were supportive of bringing kids with autism into their general education classroom. BUT, they don’t think the kids with autism are ready to join them.
“Teachers are putting the burden for inclusion on the child rather than thinking about the adaptations that might be necessary in the classroom for that child to be fully included,” Mandell said. “We’re going to have to do some values clarification with teachers.”
Let’s see. The onus is on the kids, who already have developmental disabilities, to do the legwork so that the teachers feel comfortable in having them in their classroom? Or the goal is that the professional might, I don’t know, do their job?
Again, I find myself in awe at study findings, which would, supposedly, represent the views of general education overall.
Is this really the case?
You tell me.
I’ve heard both inspiring reports from teachers in general education classrooms, and I’ve heard horror stories of unnecessary restraint, seclusion, bullying, and harassment.
I find the disparity seems to be in educating the general education teachers about the supports they can and should include, and educating the district as a whole as well.
It makes me wonder, though
My guys have all flourished in self-contained settings. I know, that simple statement seals my removal from the special needs mommy club in some circles. But for my kids, I think it has been the very best I could do for them.
See my recent post about Andy, for example.
Andy’s anxiety would preclude him being able to comfortably work on academic goals if he was also struggling with the anxiety that comes from social pressure and interaction. His placement is in a classroom setting, but he goes to the regular education options for art and music, and he’s involved in many other activities, in a controlled and comfortable way. I don’t think he would have had the same success in a general education setting. We’ll slowly start mainstreaming him into other classes at he enters the middle school; again, in a controlled way to try and protect him.
My oldest, Bobby, has pretty severe vision impairments and is moderately autistic, not to mention anxiety triggers his epilepsy. You tell me, is it safe to expect a child who doesn’t easily see his peers, can’t talk with them about any age-appropriate academic issues, and has seizures when he becomes anxious–is it fair to expect him to fit in with a general education classroom? We don’t think so.
Think beyond Bobby’s needs (and he’s flourished in this environment) to the other kids in the general education setting – should their instruction be interrupted because Bobby can’t attend to classroom activities in the academic setting? Bobby interacts with his typically developing peers often, and has been known to give a high five to a kid here or there in the halls. His teacher is one of the football coaches, and he encourages social interaction between Bobby and his classmates and the rest of the school, much less the rest of his typically developing peers.
Logan is not close to his typically developing peers socially, emotionally, or academically. He can barely sit for short periods of time for targeted instruction, and even then needs constant redirection and support. He has seizures, during which he stops breathing, when his threshold is low, when he’s significantly stressed, or just because it’s his lucky day.
Is it fair to expect him to conform to the classroom expectations in a general education classroom? Really? I don’t see how that’s fair to Logan or his peers with no disabilities. Logan still has the opportunity to interact with other kids at school, every day, in a controlled way and with all of the supports he needs in place.
There’s inclusion in a meaningful way, and then there’s inclusion for the sake of inclusion. It’s an important distinction. I haven’t seen a better option in our case. Do those options exist, I’m sure they do. But not right around here, and not in a way that I don’t feel will endanger my kids’ health, education, and further development.
Study and original News Story found via Study: Educators Support Inclusion But Find Students Ill-Prepared – Disability Scoop.