In the Autism social media community, there are many opinions expressed about schools and their ability and willingness to meet – or not meet – a child needs in the education setting.
Federal law guarantees that children with disabilities have a right to a free and appropriate public education that meet’s the student’s needs. States get financial assistance from the federal government to help schools comply with the law.
The issues I have read about come up when parents and schools disagree as to what needs to be done to meet the student’s needs.
We have been very happy with the services our son receives at his school and I theorize that one of the reasons things have been going so well is the culture of “yes” that exists at the school.
Rather than just seeing it through my eyes, I also asked members of our IEP team why they thought we were doing so well. Below are their answers.
My son’s speech teacher pointed to my son’s willingness to learn and desire to be part of the group as a key factor in his growth since his diagnosis two years ago.
She highlighted one of the challenges we see with our son, that we get a trade-off of behaviors versus academic focus. When he improves his behaviors in the classroom, his academic focus drops off.
When he focuses on academics, unwanted behaviors increase. It is this pattern of highs and lows, successes and then loss of skills as new skills are learned, that she identifies as the “dynamic nature of Autism,” and that instruction needs to be dynamic, too, to keep up with the child’s needs and keep the focus moving forward.
She also said that the support we give him as parents is a huge component, noting that if parents are not on board with the therapies given at school, it is harder to make the change in the child.
Finally she noted that success could not happen without supportive general education teachers, and an administration that listens to recommendations and doesn’t automatically say “no.”
The vice principal noted that success comes from the strength of IEP team and that each member of the team values the knowledge of everyone present, including the knowledge that the parents bring. She said that parents know the child better than anyone.
She highlighted that the IEP team – from the administration to the general education teachers to the special education teachers – knows who the children are and cares about all children on IEPs.
Another reason she mentioned for our son’s success was more general in nature. The principal of our school has special education background, and there is a higher rate of Autism in our area of the school district.
Because of this, particular attention has been paid to the needs of children with Autism at our school, including bringing in a talented speech expert.
While this is one child at one school, I feel comfortable drawing a correlative conclusion that like Autism itself, with the many ways it can manifest across a spectrum, successful teaching and therapies for a child with Autism must also be multi-faceted.
Not only is direct skill and knowledge needed, there must also be respect for all members of the IEP team, including the knowledge parents bring to the table, support of and from the general education teacher, and that culture of “yes” from the administration.
I think it is no coincidence that the culture of “yes” at my son’s school has been set by a leader with a special education background. She has taken her direct knowledge and elevated it to part of the school’s mission and it is evident in all areas.
My son is thriving because of it.