(8% indicates focused excerpt location in the Kindle version of the book, instead of page numbers.)
8% It remained for us to explore the system and find appropriate ways to help Greg. I now had to count on others.
< My Thoughts > “It remained for us to explore the system…”
Again my point exactly about how, even today, parents are left to learn about how to deal with autism and the 'system', especially the school system.
“Decision-making about where a child with an Intellectual Disability, such as those with autism, will live as an adult is perhaps one of the most difficult issues families confront.” “…U.S. mandated school services end at age 22, under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). According to reports from social services, this is a particularly difficult period for families…”
Krauss, et al. (2005) tell us that,
- Education & related services (finding programs to further educate them, similar to those previously provided by the school system)
- Relationships with professionals (finding & funding similar private programs, similar to those previously provided by the school system)
- Independence (concerns about finding vocational training & placement, plus leisure time services, similar to those previously provided by the school system)
The authors admit that unfortunately, only through ‘living the experience’ can one know how everyone will adjust and how they will discover who will benefit and who will not.
< My Thoughts > "...who will benefit and who will not?"
When Sonny was a 9-year-old, we persuaded the school district to try him in a more advanced school for their summer program (ESY) Extended School Year. I also had a position with that school, teaching an older group of children with disabilities. Because Sonny was non-verbal, non-diagnosed autistic, the principal had her doubts, but as it turned out… Sonny was recommended to attend that school in the Fall. Yea Team!!!! But, my point is that in this more ‘advanced’ classroom he not only blossomed, but he made some unexpected friends.
58% We needed to find a niche for Greg in high school by taking a careful look at his educational opportunities. …Special education classes or life skills… The words, “public education” have a collective connotation. Individualized instruction was not in the job description. To go through due process for Greg took years. We didn’t have years.
I met my match at the first teacher/parent conferences when the special education math teacher approached me, shook my hand and said, “Greg should not be here. He should be in life skills.” …She was resolute.
< My Thoughts >
Reed & Osborne (2013) found in their study, that there were discrepancies between parent and teacher ratings of behavior of children with ASD. Information about a child’s abilities was discovered through the completion of a questionnaire given to parents, teachers, and caretakers. They are asked to complete these questionnaires and then the information is compared. In the ones they used, they found that there was evidence, but not widespread, that the stress level of parents in their sampling was a factor in how their child’s behavior was rated by them. Another factor, yet to be explored, was the personality characteristics of the teacher / caregiver involved with the child.
As Sonny’s parent, this tells me that even though I perform honestly on an inquiry to rate his behavior, my concerns for his future will come through in my answers. I might describe him as, and make him look ‘more’ needy, because I worry that they will expect him to function independently.
As a teacher of someone like Sonny, I may feel that some of the behavioral challenges he faces can be overcome, with the right programming (which I can provide). Or, depending on my classroom experiences, I may not be so optimistic and may want to spare the parent what I feel are false hopes about his/her abilities.
There is also another component… the school principal. The principal has a staff and a budget by which to hire that staff. If Sonny… or, Greg requires a one-on-one aide to be with him in certain settings… like inclusion, then that becomes a factor. I have seen aides who were no longer needed, because their student had moved on, lose their position. But, if that aide is in a school where a new student needs an aide with that specific kind of training, then problem solved. Or, if the principal has to ‘find’ funds to hire someone as a one-on-one for that child… then you see the hidden dilemma.
59% I wanted inclusion. Was there anybody who would listen and continue to educate Greg in a regular education class?
The music teacher listened. The art teacher listened. Greg’s remaining inclusive classes were non-academic courses. Not core (Reading, Writing, & Math).
Producing works of art independently was out of Greg’s reach. Greg demanded assistance on every task. He produced beautiful pots, clay faces of all his favorite Sesame Street characters, and paintings.
With help, Cindy encouraged Greg’s talents, never admitting defeat. She focused on the whole child, working on his socialization and behavior.
I had to change my expectations. Too many obstacles. I fought for my son until the fighting was done. Although I prayed for a miracle cure, it was not going to happen. This was not a common cold. Greg had autism. We moved him to a life skills class.
< My Thoughts > “We moved him to a life skills class.”
Actually, in the school systems where I have taught, the life skills class is where they implement the use of communication devices, introduce social skills, and show videos of behavior to model to. So, I see moving Greg to life skills class as a good thing. But again, it depends on the resources and programs available… and so on. My advice would be to visit the classroom frequently to see how he is doing.
Teachers can always arrange to have you ‘hide’ behind a screen or partition, so as not to disrupt the process. And of course, you don’t want your child to be ‘warehoused’ there and not have other opportunities for academics. If all you can get your principal to agree to is to ‘allow’ your child to attend Art, Music, and PE, then that’s a step. The atmosphere in those classes is usually more relaxed… and, requires use of different parts of the brain. So, even though it is not a core curriculum the child is offered, it is still a form of inclusion with ‘neuro-typical’ peers. You have to pick your battles. Smiles.
Lai, et al. (2012), “Despite language disabilities in autism, music abilities are frequently preserved. Paradoxically, brain regions associated with these functions typically overlap…” making it possible for learning musical pieces. Especially songs.
REFERENCES used in < My Thoughts > are:
Krauss, M., Seltzer, M., Jacobson, H. (2005). Adults with autism living at home or in non-family settings: positive and negative aspects of residential status. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research; V49, p111-124.
Lai, G., Pantazatos, S., Schneider, H., Hirsch, J. (2012 ). Neural Systems for Speech & Song in Autism. Journal of Neurology; V135:3, p961-975.
Reed, P. & Osborne, L. (2012). The Role of Parenting Stress in Discrepancies Between Parent and Teacher Ratings of Behavior Problems in Young children with Autism Spectrum Disorder -(ASD). Journal of Autism Developmental Disorders, V43, p471-477.