Parents, as well as many public school systems are re-evaluating the present education system for children on autism spectrum. Experts are debating over the applicability of a single-classroom-for-all system.
It’s an integrated system where teachers are trained and schools are equipped to educate children with or without autism (and other disabilities) in a single classroom.
In the United States, children with autism, or other form of disability as defined by federal regulation, are expected to come under Individual Education Program. The program aims to provide specialized assistance to children with autism (or other disabilities) by designing a program suiting the needs of the individuals.
Experts and parents are now debating over the utility of Individual Education Program or IEP. According to them, the IEP encourages children with autism spectrum disorder to interact with other children in their general education classrooms. However, a major portion of their day is spent in special education classrooms. Many parents of autistic/ADHD children believe that their children benefit more through general education classroom interactions.
Stephanie Anderson, a mother of eleven-year-old child with autism, said her son, Jack, benefited a lot while attending general education classes at Knox County’s Ball Camp Elementary school. The IEP has now pulled Jack out of his general education classroom. He is attending special education classes every day for two hours.
“Jack is missing out on important lessons in maths and grammar. He will be tested on his knowledge in these courses and not the remedial work that he is doing at special classes. We are fighting for a meaningful education for Jack with certain modifications and support. We want a grade level and age appropriate education for Jack,” said Stephanie while adding that she is home-tutoring her son in order to keep him updated.
“There are definite challenges in accommodating children with autism along with other children in the same classroom, but, education system is changing and there are more benefits than disadvantages of having all children studying together”, opined Beth Price a special education teacher.
A single-classroom-for-all setup helps children with and without autism to learn from each other. Children with autism can develop their social skills through observing social interactions, while those without the disorder can learn to work with those with the limitation.
Jennifer King, a mother of 10-year-old, gave a different perspective on IEP. She said the IEP has helped his son to deal with the disorder. “Hunter goes to special education room when he needs to. At other times, he is with his peers and attends general education classes. With the one-on-one attendant, Hunter has progressed a lot,” said King. Hunter studies in Roane County Public School.
“In the United States, every year more and more children are diagnosed with the autism spectrum disorder. Researchers and policy-makers are trying to cope with the situation by establishing programs that can best help the children with the condition. In such a situation, school authorities should not hesitate to try out new ways to improve education for all”, concluded Price.