Survey says – Blame the Kid (huh?)

Who’s the adult again?

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.

The presenter, David Mendell from the University of Pennyslvania, introduced the study at last week’s International Meeting for Autism Research (San Diego).

“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 (and Bobby)

Andy

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.

Bobby

Bobby Up-close

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 and his string

Logan

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.

Katrina Moody

Katrina Moody

Graphic Designer, Wordpress Addict, Blogger at Kat's Media & More
I'm a special needs parent before just about everything else in life, but also a passionate advocate for my three boys and husband, who all have a bit of awesomeness about them. Awesomeness = Axenfeld-Rieger Syndrome, Autism, Epilepsy, Dyslexia, Cerebral Palsy, and more. It all adds up to some awesome kids and an amazing family.
Katrina Moody
Katrina Moody
Katrina Moody

Latest posts by Katrina Moody (see all)

  • http://specialchildren.about.com Terri Mauro

    My son also flourished in a self-contained classroom, and I fought to keep him there for years. He thrived on the small class size, heavy structure, and teachers who were skilled in working with kids like him. It worked really well for him for a really long time (with the help of a one-on-one para). He's finally moving into inclusion now in high school, starting with a couple of classes last year and now, as a junior, with all inclusion and resource room. It was the right time for him to move up, and he's adjusting really well to both the academic and behavioral challenges. I'm so glad we were able to wait until he was ready.

    • http://katscafe.wordpress.com katscafe

      Thanks for responding Terri
      I've had some of my most hurtful conversations with folks who are so for inclusion that they don't even consider that I have thought and agonized over this decision. It was not made easily, but after much discussion and a determination meeting in which we painstakingly looked at the other options and decided, based on my child's needs, that the self-contained classroom was the best choice we could give them, at that time.. We constantly make it a point to readdress this in each case conference. Our children need us to consider what is best for them now, and recognize that their needs might change, and should change, as they age and have different needs become apparent.

      I greatly appreciated your comment, and wanted to thank you for the phenomenal resource you've put together at About.com for special needs parents. It is so important that those of us who care about both the child with special needs as well as their parents are thoughtfully vocal for those who haven't yet found their voice. Thanks again Terri! Have a great day!

  • http://improvingonthesilence.com/blog Marie

    Great points, Kat. My mom taught special ed and I helped in her classroom during summers and other times. I always questioned the wisdom of inclusion for inclusions sake. What's the point when it's neither in the best interest of the special-needs child or the other children? I think inclusion and mainstreaming need to be done on a case-by-case basis.

    • Katrina

      Thanks Marie! It's difficult, in todays' very inclusion-friendly environment, to make a case against full inclusion for the benefit of your child. I think it is important, though, because if we are our child's most active advocates, shouldn't we be judging their needs based first on them, not on the 'accepted' or even 'desired' way of doing things?

      I agree – a case-by-case basis makes sense to me as well! Thanks so much for commenting and hope to see you around the Cafe more!