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Autism Education; The Inclusion Illusion In New Zealand

Posted Sep 12 2008 3:23am

In New Zealand schools, parents and students are wrestling with the realities of inclusive education for autistic school children. reports in Schools failing disabled that many students are being sent home from school early in the day or being told to stay home when there is no teacher aide.

A mother of an autistic 12 year old boy tells of him being sent home regularly, and being placed on shortened school days, for disruptive behavior, including hitting. Parents now tend to enroll their children in special education units. Teachers and parents talk about the need for more resources.

Here in New Brunswick, Canada, the inclusion lobby has been very powerful, and successful, at pushing the philosophy that all children benefit from mainstream classroom education. This mainstream classroom education benefits all philosophy is not supported by evidence and is not supported by the experience of some autistic children including my 11 year old son Conor.

Conor was being educated in a mainstream classroom and was frustrated each day, coming home with self inflicted bite marks on his hands and wrists. He was removed from the classroom to a quieter location where he receives instruction with the assistance of a teacher aide. He visits the mainstream classroom for visits with his peers, for defined periods of time and for activities within his range of abilities. Sometimes they visit him in his area for reading buddies and other similar activities.

The point is not that what works for Conor would work for all autistic children. The point is that it is necessary to take an evidence based approach to determine what works for each child. Some autistic children can function well in the mainstream classroom; some do not. Some require one to one ABA based instruction or other types of individualized instruction in a quieter area where they are not overwhelmed by their environment.

The belief that mainstream classroom inclusion works for all, including all autistic children, is an illusion. It is not supported by evidence. Look at what works for each child and educate the child accordingly.

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