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Monday, May 12, 2014

Part three of: Public school and Autism Spectrum Disorder: Does it meet the Needs?

Many of these same parents and caregivers who initially chose to place their Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) child in the public school system, end up just a few months or years later pulling them out, placing them in a charter school, private school, or homeschooling.  To them what first seemed to be a comfort has turned into frustration.  The support and education their child was receiving in public school was not what they would call good enough.
These parents/caregivers and many others with them believe the public schools do not meet the needs for an ASD pupil to succeed  and primarily focus their argument on unacceptable statistics, lack of services, and poor quality of programs.
A significantly lower percent of those with ASD graduate High School than the national average.  In a recent article written by a contributor for Forbes magazine it was stated that “about 56% of people with autism graduate from high school” (Walton).  According to the Washington Post, the national graduation rate is “75.5 percent” (Layton).  That is a large enough gap in percentages to concern parents with ASD children.  On the Center for Education’s website, a report done on special education states that “the majority of students with disabilities should be able to perform at grade level and graduate high school with a regular diploma” (Ulrich).  So these ASD students should be graduating if they are able to do the work and keep up with their peers.  The only reason to conclude why they are not then is because the public schools are not meeting their needs to succeed in the system.  Holding a high school diploma significantly raises the chances in one’s life for a better future.  With a diploma you are less likely to be unemployed, more likely to work above minimum wage, less likely to live off of public assistance programs,  and are less likely to go to jail.  All of these very good reasons why parents are concerned with the public schools not meeting their children’s needs to gain a diploma.
There is also much worry in the fact that those on the Spectrum after graduation are struggling.  The same article about those with ASD from Forbes magazine informs us that “a study last year looked at a group of young adults over the long term to see what they did after high school. About 18% were employed, and 14% were in college” (Walton).  These percentages are too small.  The world’s leading organization in Autism advocacy, Autism Speaks, states that “recent reports indicate unemployment and underemployment together hover around 90 percent for adults with autism” (Autism Speaks).  That is too many ASD pupils who are not meeting their potential.  Employment is important in order to be able to function on one’s own in society and attending college can help these kids to gain jobs that better fit their abilities.  The majority of those with ASD are capable of continuing their education and holding down a job.  They have the ability to be able to provide for themselves and by doing so they would not have to rely on tax payers to care for them.  ASD persons are known to be friendly, honest, intelligent and dedicated workers, though they are lacking the skills they need to continue their education and gain jobs that fit their abilities.  All these statistics can conclude that the public schools are not providing the necessary skills for ASD pupils to succeed after graduation. 
Many times in public school those with ASD find themselves to be the main targets for bullies.  ASD students’ natures tend to be much more timid and as a result make excellent targets for bullies.  A news article written on Huffington Post reads that a study “done on behalf of the U.S. Department of Education, shows that 46.3% -- or nearly half -- of young men and women with ASDs are victims of bullying” (Mustich).  This same article goes on to say that “the victimization statistic for adolescents on the spectrum is far higher than the 10.6% estimate for teens without ASDs” (Mustich).  So a much higher number of those with ASD are finding themselves the target of bullies, being ridiculed and intimidated into doing things they do not want to do.  Not the social experience any of us want for our kids.  This is why many through tears and frustration have pulled their children out of public school system and why many believe the public schools are not meeting ASD needs.
There are many who believe that the services received by the public schools are not as beneficial as the services one can receive outside.  In an article written by a mother of an ASD child entitled “How My Autistic Son Got Lost in the Public School System”, this mother explains that "not everyone would have the right background or the right attitude to deal with my child” (Mackin).  Many like her have seen their children go through similar experiences.  And after taking their children out of public schools and placing them into therapy elsewhere have noticed a huge difference in the speed in which their children make improvements.  Even though their therapists may have had a degree in Speech therapy, they were not familiar with ASD characteristics.  Understanding what effects your student allows you to come up with better techniques for teaching them in a more effective way.  Without this knowledge the students can become lost, resulting in a poor quality of education and not meeting the pupils needs to succeed. 
It’s no surprise that with the economy in the shape it is budget cuts have been made that directly affect the ASD education in the public schools.  Last year the Texas Education Agency made an estimate for this year that “up to $51 million in federal money could be slashed from special-education programs and $65.4 million from Title I, a federal initiative that aids low-income students, along with cuts to teacher professional development, career-technical programs and English language acquisition classes” (Schneider).  These budget cuts mean teachers being laid off, which results in bigger classes, and then in turn that causes a poorer quality of education.   With not as many teachers to teach, it is harder to meet individual needs.  Because of this many of those with special needs, like those with ASD, are slowing in progression academically.  Also because of these budget cuts special services for those with ASD, like occupational therapy, are down grading.  In many rural areas these services are already gone, taking essential resources away from the students.  Without these services/therapies those with ASD are unable to learn important skills that can help them to overcome their disabilities.  Without these learned techniques academics are harder to grasp and life will be more of a struggle for them.  This is something many parents and caretakers share frustrations over.  These lack of services are making it to where the public schools are not able to meet ASD children’s’ needs.
The No Child Left Behind Act and Common Core were meant to improve the children’s’ education, but instead have caused a down grade in the quality of schooling they receive.    The Atlantic recently published an article by Professor Katherine Beals, the author of Raising a Left-Brain Child in a Right-Brain World.  In this article she states that “Though most Common Core goals are abstract and schematic, collectively they constitute a one-size fits-all approach that, in practice, has severely straightjacketed America’s special-needs students” (Beals).  She is saying that the common core teaches only one way, that there isn’t room to alter the teaching in any way to fit a child who has disabilities and one way teaching is hindering those with special needs.  She goes on to say that,
“Even before the widespread adoption of the Common Core, it was already increasingly rare for even the most intellectually unusual children to be exempted—whether by acceleration, remediation, or placement in special classrooms—from the course of study followed by their cognitively typical peers. The 2001 No Child Left Behind Act had schools focusing away from the most academically advanced students (and requires no special programming for them); the 2004 re-authorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act required children with disabilities “to be involved in and make progress in the general education curriculum.” Increasingly, it’s the general curriculum for everyone. And now that this general curriculum is being shaped by dozens of grade-specific Common Core standards, and that teachers (including special-ed teachers) are increasingly expected to align each day’s lesson with one or more of these standards, there’s even less room for remediation or acceleration” (Beals).
This means that for years now the programs that have been put into place have caused it to where those with special needs are not able to receive alternate teaching methods and accommodations.  This slows down ASD children’s’ progression.  If they are not able to receive lessons adjusted to fit the way they learn, they are not able to learn at a similar pace as the mainstream.  Students being forced to learn in a way that doesn’t resonate with them, causes them to struggle in even the most basic and easiest lessons, that otherwise would have come easy to them.  This results in unnecessary stress and frustration, causing students to think learning is a horrible tortures thing.  Having these poor quality of programs in the public school system is not what you would call meeting the needs of an ASD child to succeed. 
                Parents and others who care about the present and future of these kids with ASD have a hard time overlooking all of these issues in the public school system.  It is truly upsetting to see the low percentage of graduates and the low percentage of those employed as adults.  And the amount of these kids being bullied is heartbreaking.  It is also frustrating to see the services that are not working with the student’s disabilities and the programs these kids need that are being slashed and downgraded.  With all of this it is no surprise they choose other options for schooling their ASD child, believing that the public schools do not meet ASD children’s’ needs to succeed. 
(Written in April of 2014)
Works Cited
Beals, Katharine. "The Common Core Is Tough on Kids With Special Needs." The Atlantic. Atlantic Media
Company, 21 Feb. 2014. Web. 10 Apr. 2014.
Boser, Ulrich. "Special Education: A Better Perspective (full Report)." Special Education: A Better
Perspective (full Report). Center for Public Education, 15 Oct. 2009. Web. 06 Apr. 2014.
Layton, Lyndsey. "High School Graduation Rate Rises in U.S." Washington Post. The Washington Post, 19
Mar. 2012. Web. 04 Apr. 2014.
Mackin, Amy. "How My Autistic Son Got Lost in the Public School System." The Atlantic. Atlantic Media
Company, 03 Jan. 2013. Web. 12 Apr. 2014
Mustich, Emma. "Bullying And Autism: Study Finds Almost Half Of Adolescents With An Autism Spectrum
Disorder Have Been Victimized." The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 06 Sept. 2012. Web. 26 Apr. 2014.
Schneider, Elena. "Special-Education Programs Steel Themselves as Cuts Loom." New York Times, Late
Edition (East Coast) ed.Mar 22 2013. ProQuest. Web. 10 Apr. 2014 .
"Strengthening Support for Adults with Autism." Autism Speaks. Autism Speaks, 04 Aug. 2012. Web. 06
Apr. 2014
Walton, Alice G. "Living Life With Autism: Has Anything Really Changed?" Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 30

Nov. 2011. Web. 05 Apr. 2014.