DOES THIS SOUND FAMILIAR?
As ever, we can count on one issue to unify all parents of ASD kids: the less-than-adequate delivery of services, particularly by our schools. I wrote before about a positive change of attitude we encountered in our local school system, but attitude doesn’t get the job done. The problem is getting real assistance to the teachers and aides on the front lines.
The universality of this problem was underlined recently by an article from across the big pond. The Scotsman reported on a study by Glasgow University to assess the implementation of a mainstreaming policy. That study showed that “nearly a third of local authorities are having difficulty including children with special needs in mainstream secondary schools.” Of course, that should not have been a surprise considering that “fewer than half of Scotland’s councils had carried out the necessary preparatory work in order to implement the policy effectively.”
The frightening part of the Scottish report was its drawing a link between an increase in the numbers of autistic students and a rise in “indiscipline” in the classroom:
The report said: “Children on the autistic spectrum may exhibit behaviour that is incongruous and challenging, and which severely disrupts teaching and learning.
“It is possible that the perceived rise in the incidence of challenging behaviour in schools, and indeed in the incidence of social, emotional and behavioural difficulties, is related to the reported increase in the number of children on the autistic spectrum.”
One council official told researchers that the worst part of the mainstreaming policy was the “insufficient recognition of the challenge facing schools in dealing with behavioural issues”.
The article also cited a recent report by the General Teaching Council for Scotland that made a similar link:
Teachers said they were not given enough support to deal with pupils with behavioural difficulties, and warned that some of the indiscipline displayed by children with special needs affected the learning of their classmates.
Sadly, the schools seem to be looking on the problem as a failing of autistic children rather than a failing to address the needs of autistic children who are being mainstreamed. Still I was struck by the Scottish teachers’ insistence that much of the problem lay in inadequate support.
Inadequate support is something my son’s teacher, aides, and principal understand all too well. And their situation is not unique; I hear similar complaints from nearly everywhere. Our teachers are simply overwhelmed with the challenges presented by autistic students.
That prompts me to ask: why are teachers suddenly overwhelmed? Did teachers suddenly get stupid? Or has there really been either an increase in the numbers of autistic children entering our schools or a qualitative leap in the severity of autism in students?