May 2008


I was on the forums at Lotsofkids, and someone posted a link to this article:

SN Child Voted Out of Classroom.

The first reaction of most people is to be appalled. And I have to admit, this is a very upsetting situation and I do not feel it was handled well at all. The teacher does deserve some sort of disciplinary action. However, I don’t believe this was criminal and I don’t believe she deserves to lose her job. This situation is simply casting light on another issue, and one that I feel we are going to be seeing a lot more about–good and bad. It is about a growing trend in education which is turning out to be a double-edge sword.

In an effort to be “inclusive” more and more special needs children are being put into mainstream classrooms. These children, who would have been put in a special program in the past, are being placed into regular rooms with 20+ students. Problem is, teachers are NOT being given training to deal with special needs children. They are simply being told to deal with it. Granted, most schools do have a special-ed team member they can confer with, but in the trenches, day-to-day, the teachers are on their own.

This just boggles my mind. Even trained professionals and parents can have hard time with these kids, and they have experience. Seasoned teachers are struggling with this. What about a new teacher, fresh out of school, just getting her feet wet in teaching? Put a difficult SN child in his/her classroom and it’s a recipe for disaster.

Integration is not new, but it’s the hot trend right now, and more and more districts are jumping on the bandwagon. While I can understand the benefits, there is a rush to push *everyone* into a regular classroom. This is just not a good thing. I fought with my school district about it for years. They wanted my son in a general classroom. This is a child who is, for the mostpart, non-verbal. He requires a 1-on-1 aide, plus he has to have special intervention throughout the week. He has to have behavior therapy because of his aggression issues, which are sometimes directed towards students and staff. He can disrupt his class of 10. I can’t imagine him in a room of 20 or 30! And yet, I still hear in meetings, “don’t you look forward to the day he can enter a regular classroom?” Um, no. Granted, in my dreams I would love to believe he would be able to get to that point. But I am realistic. I truly don’t see that happening. I think some of these schools need to realize that too.

My sister is a 2nd grade teacher and she is dealing with this situation now. She gets 1 to 2 kids a year who are SN and it causes a lot of problems. The other students do not understand that the child’s behavior is not his/her fault. Because of privacy issues and such, my sister cannot really tell her students what is going on. She just has to say the SN child is “different” or having a “hard time.” That doesn’t really help the kids understand, and just makes things harder for her as a teacher. My sister constantly complains she does not have the knowledge of the strategies to deal with some of the behavioral and learning issues these kids have. At least in her case, she can come to talk to me about these things, so she has someone who can give her some perspective. Many teachers don’t have that at all.

Getting back to the news story, I truly think it’s terrible that this child had to go through that. I also think it’s terrible that the teacher set such an example of intolerance for those other children. But, knowing how hard these kids can be to deal with, is she truly to blame? I actually had Raif’s kindergarten teacher call me on the phone and scream at me, telling me she thought Raif was pretending to be “retarded.” She insisted because he was intelligent, he must be normal, and any acting out was deliberate. Any parent of a SN child realizes this thinking is so misinformed and wrong. However, it should be noted this was a woman that had a 3-month crash course in special education before being thrown into a classroom with a dozen kids with varying degrees of special needs. She knew little to nothing about working with these types of children. Granted, at the time I was infuriated at the woman’s insensitivity, but I realized that the school system had a good deal of blame too.

I can truly understand the idea of integrating children. “Blended” classrooms are important. There is proven facts that when SN kids are exposed to regular children, they make advancements therapy just can’t accomplish. They see what is appropriate behavior. They learn by the example of their peers. It is good for NT children too, because they learn to how to relate to those that are different than them. The difference is, in what is considered a “blended” classroom (at least in my state) means that the teacher has training, and there is usually one aide in the room for support. So many of these teachers in general classrooms who are receiving these moderately SN kids are just not equipped to handle it. Not to mention, that there is a difference between putting a high to mid functioning child into a classroom, as opposed to a child who has more significant issues.

There is no easy answer to this. My only hope is that eventually schools will come to a middle ground. Yes, integration is good and important, but not every child will benefit from it. And despite my desire to have my child included, I have to respect that the NT children’s needs need to be considered too. I hope, in the end, someone will come up with an answer. Until then, I fear the situation mentioned in the story is going to just be one of many.

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Autism…haircuts.  Those are two words you don’t say together.  Autistic children, particularly the moderate to severe ones, have a hard time sitting still for a long period.  That makes traditional haircuts near impossible.  Most families resort to the dreaded clippers.  You know, this kind:

Thing is, loud buzzing noises usually make an autistic child crazy. So haircutting sessions often turn into this:

There was no greater joy when we came to the day that Raif realized that his hatred of the clippers was greater than his hatred of sitting still for a half an hour, and thus my life was eased. Now, I’m lucky. Most beautyshops will not take a SN kid like Raif, so I would still have to resort to the clippers, but since I have become adept with barber sheers, I was able to cut his hair at home. While it had its moments, particulary when I accidentally snipped his ear when he moved, it was so much better. For about 2 years, Raif was content with that. Until he saw a picture of himself with a buzz, and realized he liked that look.

It’s amazing to me that at age 11, Raif is now starting to care about how he looks. One day I came home to find him in a long sleeve pullover shirt, with a t-shirt over it. A very trendy look, indeed. One I never dressed him in. Apparently one he had come to like it while seeing characters dressed like that on television (Disney channel does dress its stars in the latest fashions). On this occasion, Raif decided he wanted a buzzcut. He was ready to subject himself to the clippers again.

Well, all in all, it wasn’t *too* bad. The first 10 minutes went well. The last 15 were terrible. But there was something to be said. As much as Raif fought, he would run away to cool down, and then he would willingly come back. He realized that as much as he hated that buzzing cutty thing, it was something he wanted and had to put up with.

The results:

This was actually the previous cut Raif got. He’s had another with the sheers since then. I have to admit, I kinda wish he’d go back to the scissors, but I know he is happy, and that is what counts. The life of the parent of an autistic child, where haircutting is a contact sport. Gotta love it.