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Friday, May 9, 2014

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

When parents and caregivers of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) children first learn of their child’s diagnoses they instantly begin to feel overwhelmed.  Right away these parents/caregivers begin researching and immediately realize that in order for their child to succeed academically and in life, their child is going to need a lot of extra support.  This extra support includes things like:  Applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy, speech therapy, physical therapy, and occupational therapy.  Upon realizing this questions begin popping into these parents/caregivers heads.  Questions like:  Will I be able to find the help my child needs, will I be able to pay for all the extra services, will my insurance cover any of it, and will my child need to attend a school other than a public one.  Public school can actually be a huge stress reliever, especially when money is a concern.  Public school is not only free, but by law has to provide for those with special needs, administering special therapies and having teachers who are trained to work with those who have disabilities.  This is why a large group of parents/caregivers choose to send their children to public school; they have hope the schools will meet their children’s’ needs without putting them in a financial distress.
Many believe that the public schools are able to meet the needs for an ASD pupil to succeed.  These people who do so primarily focus their argument on better social skills, false expectations from others, and the services provided by the schools. 
Better social skills is referring to ASD children being more successful in picking up on social cues in a public school setting verses a non-public one.   They believe that their behavior is more positive and appropriate for any given situation because they attend a public school.  Examples of these skills are knowing when on a playground for recess you can run, talk loudly, and play.  Although in the classroom during a lesson you need to sit still, be quiet, and listen.  That one does not push his way through a crowd, but instead uses manners, and politely makes his way through.   In a study done at the University of California with ASD students of the age of seven and eight it was determined that “parent and teacher agreement on child characteristics ratings tended to be similar while differences between parent ratings of students in public and non-public school settings found more behavior problems and poorer social skills for students in non-public school placements compared to public-school settings“(Blacher et al 469).  So those ASD children who show similar traits to one another taught in a private setting, like homeschooled students, tend to show more negative behavior and poorer social skills than those in a public school setting, making public school the better option.  This is important to know because no one wants a naughty child or wants their kid to associate with a problem child.  So by doing the better job of teaching appropriate behavior and good social skills, public schools are meeting these ASD students’ needs.  
Social skills are so important in one’s life, these skills lead us to making connections in appropriate ways with others, forming a friendship.  Without these skills we would struggle to survive and function in society.  Knowing how to behave in a certain situation guides and directs where one goes in life.  In another report that supports this same study done at the University of California researchers “Lyons, Cappadocia, and Weiss (2011) found that elementary students who were fully included with their typical peers had higher levels of social skills and more friends as compared to students in a more restrictive environment” (Blacher et al 471).  In a public school setting ASD kids are much more likely to make friends, than those in a homeschool environment where social life is limited, due to the setting being more private.  By being in a place like public school, where there is a large amount of peers, they have the social opportunities to learn these higher skills, and in turn gain close acquaintances.  These friendships allow them to have a more fulfilled life.  Having friends, means they are not alone and have a network to support and guide them through troubled times.  They are less likely to have depression and less likely to act out.  All showing that having these higher levels of behavior/social skills help those with ASD to navigate easier in life, benefiting them in their relationships, academics, and in future professions.  Concluding that by having an environment which can better teach these correct and proper ways of getting along in society the public schools are meeting the needs of ASD pupils to succeed.
Those who believe the schools are meeting all the ASD needs, also believe that those who don’t agree with them have false expectations.  In an article written by two psychologists, David Gold and Thomas Stacy, for the Child Welfare League of America, they state:
Two points about special education are widely misunderstood by the public. First, the purpose of special education is to help students already experiencing significant difficulties in the education system, not to prevent students from experiencing difficulty in the first place. The second misconception is that the special education system is supposed to provide whatever services are necessary to ensure the best education for its students.
This is not the case. Rather, the role of special education is to provide the necessary services to ensure a good or adequate education for the student. Special education isn't supposed to provide a Mercedes-Benz education. It is mandated, however, to provide the educational equivalent of a Honda Accord (Children’s Voice).
So they are saying that the public school system’s special needs department is meant only to help those children who before attending, notably struggled academically.   That parents and caregivers should not expect the public schools to provide their ASD children with the best available academics out there.  By law all that the schools are required to do is provide a decent education and by doing so are meeting the needs of the students.
These people also feel that with the low percentage of students on the spectrum there isn’t enough of a need to implement other programs that would only be catering to a few students.   According to the group The Future of Children, at Princeton University, it was reported that in 2009-10 school year there were only “13.1 percent” of students receiving special needs services and only “6 percent” of those had a diagnoses of ASD (Aron and Loprest).  Six percent is a very small portion of students for schools to spend extra money on getting resources, implementing new programs, and adjusting the way they are teaching.  Many feel that the current education ASD students are being provided with by the public school system is good enough.  They receive therapy from specialists who also work with other diagnosis’s and provide teachers with general special needs degrees.  By providing these special services the public schools are able to meet these kid’s’ basic needs, without adding to or changing the way things are done.   So this small percentage of ASD Students are able to succeed and have their needs met without making any adjustments to the school’s workings.
They also argue that when the needs are not being met it is the parent’s fault.  Psychologists David Gold and Thomas Stacy go on to say that when the special education system is “Used appropriately by parents armed with an understanding of the system and a good working relationship with the school, special education can be an invaluable resource for many children, including those diagnosed with learning disabilities, mental retardation, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and autism” (Children’s Voice).  This suggests that if the schools are not meeting the needs of a child, it is because the parents do not understand the system and are not as connected with the school faculty as they should be.  When parents are actively engaged with the schools, attending meetings, learning about options in the system and keeping communication lines open, their children’s needs are able to be better met.  So it is the parent’s lack of involvement and communication that prevents the schools from meeting their child’s needs, otherwise the schools would have their needs met.
These people also believe the public schools are meeting the needs because of the special services provided for children with disabilities.  Psychologists David Gold and Thomas Stacy inform us that “Special education students may also receive specialized therapy from one or more school-based professionals--often called related service providers--including school psychologists, social workers, occupational therapists, and speech and language therapists” (Children’s Voice).  So the public schools not only have teachers with specific degrees in teaching those with disabilities, but also offer other experts to help in specific areas that can increase academic progress.  It is very rare and very hard to find so many services under one roof.  The Adams’, parents of a recent ASD graduate named Bridger, like many others agree that by offering this network of specialists the schools are meeting ASD children’s’ needs.  In a news article about their son graduating and entering the world, reporter Carissa Wolf says “In 10 years, Adams' son, Bridger, matriculates through the public school system that has buoyed him and the family through the initial diagnosis and years of special education. But schools give children like Adams' son more than a home to learn. The buildings house experts in her son's diagnosis and specialists who know how to turn delays into adaptations and disabilities into abilities” (Wolf).  So by receiving all of these great resources of specialists and the services they provide, their ASD student was able to learn how to work around his weaknesses in order to meet the standards needed to succeed.  Many others like the Adams’ feel the same way, that the schools are meeting their children’s’ needs to succeed.
With all of these things in mind, an ASD child having better social skills, parents being active caretakers, and special services being provided by the schools, they believe the public school system is meeting the needs for any ASD child to succeed in the public school system.  Giving those parents who are overwhelmed by their child’s recent diagnoses of ASD, a place of comfort. 
(Written in March of 2014)
Works Cited
Aron, Laudan, and Pamela Loprest. "Disability and the Education System."  - The Future of Children -.
Princeton Bookings, 2012. Web. 17 Apr. 2014.
Gold, David, and Stacy Thomas. "Navigating Special Ed." Children's Voice 12 2005: 28-30. ProQuest.
                Web. 2 Apr. 2014 .
Lauderdale-Littin, Stacy, Erica Howell, and Jan Blacher. "Educational Placement for Children with Autism
Spectrum Disorders in Public and Non-Public School Settings: The Impact of Social Skills and Behavior Problems." Education and Training in Autism and Developmental Disabilities 48.4 (2013): 469-78. ProQuest. Web. 1 Apr. 2014.
Wolf, Carissa. "Graduating into the Unknown." Boise Weekly: 11. May 2012. ProQuest. Web. 2 Apr. 2014