Saturday, November 26, 2011

Autism and Public Schools

When you have a child with autism, the public systems seem to reach out and pull you in. Early intervention professionals recommend appropriate preschools where therapists are available. Before you have a chance to turn around, you're meeting with school officials to put together IEPs, NOREPs, accommodations and behavioral interventions… and you begin to feel that educating your child is so complex that it requires a team of highly paid experts just to explain what will happen, where it will happen, why it will happen, and who will be making it happen.

With so many acronyms, therapists, specially trained teachers and special equipment involved, how could a mere parent possibly manage to homeschool a child with autism? And why, with so much available publicly, would anyone want to?

We came to homeschooling reluctantly. Our son is mildly autistic (with an official diagnosis of PDD-NOS - pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified), and we were sure the public system would be the ideal choice for his educational needs.

It wasn't.

Sadly, the American school system is set up with legal constraints which force parents, teachers and administrators to educate autistic children with one goal in mind: to help them become as typical in behavior, thinking, and learning style as possible. The ideal outcome, again legally enforced, is for a child with autism to look, think, and act typically enough to be able to function adequately in a general education classroom.

To achieve this goal, schools create individualized plans to remediate delays, fix problems, and teach social skills. Individualized plans are not designed to build on strengths, teach to different learning skills, or support self-esteem. Even academics may often come second.
By: Lisa Rudy

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