If your child has autism, you may find yourself asking the following questions.
Is the public school system equipped to deal with my autistic child?
Does public schools have an autism teaching class or a special education teacher for autism?
In a classroom there is not only a special education teacher but there is also a general education teacher. Children are intermixed with “normal” students and those who have other types of special needs (i.e. ADHD, health problems, learning disabilities) besides autism. This is usually referred to as “collaboration.” “Mainstreaming” and “inclusion” both work in a similar fashion too. For any of these types of education to work properly there are some things that you need to know about.
Whenever there is a general education and special education teacher working together, it is within the general education classroom. This type of education is known as “collaboration” and today it is occurring more and more frequently within the public school system. Herein special education students are taught alongside their non-disabled peers in a regular classroom.
The reason for this is that a study that was done by Logsdon showed that collaboration actually helps to ensure that children who have learning disabilities get a free and appropriate public school education, which includes specialized instruction in a regular classroom. This is beneficial for these students because they then have the opportunity to model behaviors and learn from those who are not disabled. At the same time, children who are not disabled are able to learn empathy and that everyone has both strengths and challenges.
Mainstreaming occurs whenever a student spends part of their day in a self-contained classroom and the other part of their day in a regular education classroom. It usually only occurs for extracurricular and non-academic activities such as art, music and drama.
This type of education is mainly beneficial in that the child who is receiving special education services is able to receive the support that he needs while in the self-contained classroom setting. At the same time he is also able to have the opportunity to participate with his typically developing peers. Both groups of children are able to learn from one another while participating in these extracurricular activities.
The inclusion model of education occurs whenever a child who has autism is educated in a regular education classroom along with his typically developing peers. Children who are educated in this manner usually only need a small amount of support from the special education department. They have been found to benefit from grade-level specific academics.
Inclusion is beneficial for autistic children because they are allowed to spend their day beside typically developing peers. These peers are able to serve as role models for them whenever it comes to social interaction. One study that was done by Baker, Wang and Walberg actually discovered that “special needs students educated in regular classrooms do better academically and socially than comparable students in non-inclusive settings.” For this reason, inclusion is usually the goal for autistic children, especially if they fall on the higher functioning end of the autism spectrum.
There are some very definite parameters that are used in planning for an inclusive classroom. These have been put into place in order to ensure that students with special needs are receiving an appropriate education along side of their non-disabled peers. The parameters include:
- Disabled students are members of a general education classroom wherein they are taught along side of their non-disabled peers.
- The general education teacher and special education teacher collaborate to make certain that systematic instruction is being delivered. They also work to ensure that the disabled student’s IEP goals are being met. Sometimes this requires modifying the core curriculum.
- All students are engaged in enrichment activities.
The IEP Process
Clearly these are three very different ways in which to educate children who have autism. Deciding which of these classroom settings is appropriate for your child will directly contribute to his academic success. Regardless of which setting you choose, you should make sure that your child also has an IEP in place. This is a way to ensure that schools provide your child with the appropriate services that they need in order to get a good education.
There is usually a process in place for referring students who may require special services. This process requires that either a parent or someone who works for the school submit a written request for a special education assessment. Once this has been submitted an assessment plan is developed and provided to the parent within 15 calendar days.
The parent must then show that they approve of the plan by signing the assessment plan and returning it to the school. After the assessment takes place an IEP meeting is scheduled and the appropriate team members and the parent are all notified. The IEP meeting is held within 60 calendar days. Once the IEP is signed, the IEP is implemented.
You may be still wondering if public schools and autistic children can go together. You must visit your local school system to find out, its the only way!