Best placement for a child with high-functioning autism?
Question:What do you think is the best thing for a child with high functioning autism? A class of only other high functioning asd kids who will have some behavior problems he might copy, but he also might make good friends and feel comfortable there; part-time school / part-time homeschool; or full-time homeschool (part-time self-contained/pt inclusion is not an option).
Full-time inclusion doesn't seem the best fit, I think the negatives of the social experience outweigh the positives.
Have you asked your son what he wants to do? Depending on his age he may be able to voice his concerns about one choice over another. Obviously ultimately you will make the decision, but it seems reasonable to take into account the opinion of the person it will effect most.
That said I would opt against full-time homeschool. I think it's important for kids with ASD to be comfortable around other kids, both kids with ASD and typically developing peers. Spending some time in a group of his peers will help your child learn the social skills he needs to interact with people. You may even be able to get the school to make a social group for him, consisting of peers with ASD and without, so that they can practice appropriate interactions and make friends. In that kind of facilitated group, ASD kids and non-ASD kids often bond together, and the non-ASD kids will then often help the ASD kids stand up for themselves, and they will defend their ASD peers, if someone teases them.
Only you know what is best for your child, but if it were my child I might opt to home school academic subjects but include my child in specials (phys ed, art, etc), a social group if possible, and maybe an academic class or two that my child really liked.
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Why is pt inclusion an option? It needs to be. It's hard to say what their best placement is without knowing the needs of the child...
I think you should try and go with a part tiem inclusion. that way, they're in gen ed for things he can do well with the others, but then in a self-contained room because that's the environment that will probably cater to him best.
Make sure you visit each room to see what it's like. Don't take somebeody's word for it, see it for yourself.
The title of the room is one thing, but what is the staff like? Will they get along with the teacher, will they spend most of their time with a para? Questions like this will help you get a better feel for the program.
Placements aren't permanent, either. You can always go to something more or less restrictive.
I am hoping to put my son in a fultime gen ed classroom with an aide if necessary. He is high functioning and I have made it clear this is my ultimate goal for Kindergarten so lets work on social skills hard this yr. I think the exposure to typically developing peers his own age would be very beneficial for my child. Its up to you though as you know your child best. I would push pt self contained pt inclusion if you feel that is the best option for your child. Good luck.
Full-time homeschool would definitely work out well. I do that with both of my high-functioning autistic children and it allows for them to focus on their obsessive interests and themes as learning topics which is great. My son (13 yoa) will usually read a book a day and he was a reluctant learner in the school system where they pick your learning materials for you (and usually he didn't like what they chose!).
I actually tried to part-time school and part-time home school when we first started homeschooling my son. He attended school in preschool, kindergarten, and first grade, and I was hesitant about full-time homeschool, but my county was not open to that. If you can do that in yours, that might be a good option as well. It seemed like a good option to me at least.
They had asked me to "preteach his language arts" and tutor his reading, handwriting and math, which were all his morning subjects, so I figured why not just do those myself in the morning instead of trying to cram them into the evenings. He was also crying and having stomach aches each morning during those subjects. I could then bring him to school at lunch time 11:30 or so and he could stay for all the afternoon subjects: science, social studies, music, PE, art, and recess. All his favorite classes were in the afternoon. But I wasn't able to do that, so we just started homeschooling him full-time which was just as well and alleviated all the stress and anxiety also. But I think that could have been a good option as well if we could have talked them into it!
We early on were slated to have my son go into a preschool classroom with other ASD and special needs kids and went to observe the classroom. It was horrible. In the classrooms we went, there was about 15 children to 1 teacher. The children were winning! There were several children that were clear behavior problems. One boy was running around with a broom hitting the floor and everything else. My son is very much a copycat/follower type who will pick up every kind of behavior whether good or bad and the teachers clearly seemed overwhelmed in these classrooms. Obviously, we did not have my son go to this preschool, even though it would have been free, and chose to send him to a private preschool where there was a better teacher-student ratio, smaller class size, and two teachers in each class.
You didn't mention the class size, but I know for AS kids small size is key and I think having 2 teachers (or more) would be key in that classroom as well. I would also advise you to observe the classroom as well. It could be done well if you had a small class with 2 or more teachers or teacher and an aide. But I think you do have to have excellent teachers and enough teachers or it doesn't work well.
Edit: I wanted to add that I disagree with the social worker that suggests you should not home school because your children should be comfortable around other peers. Well, first of all, at the time we pulled my son out of school had to consider the fact that he was not succeeding in the academic portion of school, and I was having to tutor him in just about every academic area of school in 1st grade (at the request of the teachers and IEP team). He was also highly stressed, crying daily and having daily stomach aches each morning just at school. These were important factors, more important to me than he be around other 6 year olds for several hours of the day.
Additionally, my children are just as comfortable around their peers as they have always been as well as children that are younger and older and adults as well. I sign them up for classes and activities that are attended by children of all ages, so they can socialize with children of all ages, not just children born the same year. For example, my daughter is attending art camp this summer with children 5 to 12 yoa, and she is 7 and is just as comfortable talking to the 5 yoa as the 12 yoa and the adults.
My home schooled from birth daughter is actually more gregarious and outgoing than my son who attended preschool from 3 and then school for several years. I don't credit that to homeschooling though. I believe that home schooling probably doesn't help with socializing that much though, other than they probably are exposed to a little bit more children of different ages rather than just same-age peers, but other than that their socialization is about the same. I just think my daughter was born with a more outgoing personality than my son. I don't think school experiences change children's personalities that they were born with (unless they are extremely stressful perhaps like bullying or something like that).
My son has AS and he is totally mainstreamed in public school. Remember, if you stay in public school system, they are state obligated to give your child what he/she needs for the best education possible. My son does ride the special needs bus and that has eliminated some of his anxiety with school. He had a life skills class that he goes to every day for an hour and that seems to help ease him as well. Good Luck!
If he's able to handle the academic material and can keep his behavior from being overly disruptive, he should be in regular classes. To the extent that is not the case--but no more--hoe school is likely best. Few schools have adequate special education classes--and even the god ones arelikely not to provide as good an academic background as he should have.
And--as a person with a disability--a bit of advice: for the sake of your son, quit being so concerned about making him "comfortable." With autism, you do have to be concerned abotut his handling social situations--but you also have to be willing to allow him to be UNcomfortable and learn to handle such situations (he may need extra help to do that--which is fine. But don't disable him further by being over-protective).
Has the school district done a functional behavior analysis? If not, they need to. Of course, at this point it's not worth anything, so contact your son's case worker/resource teacher and have her request one as soon as school starts in the fall.
I agree with your assessment of ED and BD classrooms, those classrooms are NOT the best placement for our kiddos. I don't know what academic needs your son has, but if he can keep up academically (many can), then I would give inclusion another shot. You can have him moved to another school within the school district--talk with other parents in your school district to see if certain schools/buildings handle the ASD population better than others. You won't get this info from your district office, they'll give you the party line that "we educate all students equally, they will get the same quality education at any building." B*sh**. We live in a school district that is renouned in our state for special ed, we have special classrooms that have been developed for our LD ASD kids, and there are buildings and principals in our district who handle special needs kids better than others.
Look at the classroom with the high functioning ASD kids--talk with the teachers, and see what you think. Remember you are a part of that IEP team, and keep advocating for your son. If you feel that placement is the best for your son, then don't quit until you've got it. Gather your facts--get your expert opinions of why that placement is better than full/part time inclusion. I wouldn't homeschool except under dire circumstances--like I'm taking the district to court circumstances. It doesn't sound like you're even close to that point yet. Good luck to you!
he should be mainstreamed...
This is a very complicated situation, especially not knowing what services are available and all of the specifics about the child. I am a big believer in inclusion services, but they may not be effective for the whole day. Have you considered an inclusion setting with possibly pull-out services for social skills and behavior by a counselor, speech pathologist or behavioral specialist. I think that being in an inclusive setting is necessary for proper modeling of social skills and behavior. You also need to address when and why the behaviors are occurring. The school district needs to have a specific plan for how to deal with behaviors and how to reduce them when they occur. I have also seen situations in which the school has found a "buddy" for each classroom. This would be a child that is sensitive to the needs of the child, can help bridge the gap between the child and the other children in the classroom and can be an advocate and help to educate the other children in the classroom to avoid teasing and inappropriate treatment. I would vote against home schooling, because although he may get a great academic education, he may be missing a lot of the social interactions that are so necessary for functioning in society.
I had the opportunity to work in a spec ed class for bhr'al disorders and one student Dx'd w/Aspergers was included. High IQ but of course, others' expectations of him mattered not to him! He was fascinated, however, with a diagramming system I started with the class--diagramming the behavioral patterns. Since bhr is always purposeful--provides our physical and EMOTIONAL NEEDS--he eventually ended up helping me make a video of his diagramming not only his bhr'al patterns but his feelings as well! Then we applied Glasser's Basic Emotional Needs: Belonging, Power, Freedom and Fun and he analyzed his own in that light--Belonging was the lowest Need; Power to do what he wanted and to be FREE to work on his own computer ALONE; FREEDOM from people!! His priority of Needs was not the regular students!! Verbal interaction is his very LOWEST NEED. Yet, he was able to DIAGRAM his bhr and Needs perfectly!! C.J. Jung writes that diagramming avoids the PAIN of verbalizing!! This coincides with Piaget's Cognitive Stages--that of Pre-Concret Cognitive Stage: diagramming.---NO, he will not actualize his postential if mainstreamed! I DO hope he can get into a Sp. Ed class who can work with him INDIVIDUALLY!!
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