HIGH FUNCTIONING SPECIAL NEEDS CHILDREN ARE THE MOST UNDERSERVED KIDS IN THE SPECIAL NEEDS COMMUNITY.
This may not be a popular opinion and may ruffle a few feathers but in my opinion it is absolutely true. When we look at opportunities for our boys there just isn't a fit anywhere. Because of their smarty pants brains they aren't a good fit for a Challenges type program (this is a Spec Ed Program in Fred. Co. MD) and because of the behaviors that come with being Autistic they cannot always be fully included in a typical classroom. Are there any other options? YES and NO.
And ideal situation for a HF Autistic kid would be one that has an appropriate and challenging curriculum, allows for social interaction with typical peers in a facilitated way and has behavioral supports in place when needed. Now, I know, it is not the role of the public education system to give us the ideal scenario, just "least restrictive" and "appropriate".
The solution we have been working within has been something called the Pyramid Program (in Fred. Co. MD). This program is academically appropriate with behavioral supports and inclusive opportunities which sounds like a pretty close fit, right? Here is the problem. This program was not set up to meet the needs of HF Autistic kids, it was set up for kids with Emotional Disturbance. These beautiful children cannot function within in a normal classroom, they've been through a trauma, they have bi-polar disorder, they have a depression diagnosis, they have chronic pain. These kids are having very true and very elemental responses to the outside world and honestly, who can blame them?
So here we have 2 groups of kids both with behavioral needs and both on grade level, both need services within Special Education so logically...... we put them in the same class. I've asked many people, this isn't just in Fred. Co., this is a common result across counties and across states. From an outside perspective, I can see how and why it is set up this way but being in the trenches, this makes my brain hurt. Here we have wonderful and smart kids who NEED DIFFERENT THINGS! The main resource this program provides that inclusion doesn't is Behavioral Support but the basis for the behaviors are different. A kid with chronic pain lashing out at a teacher is a very different kids than one with Autism who is having a meltdown because the light above him is humming.
Give credit where credit is due... it is by the sheer force of will and great ability of the teachers within this program that it even works at all. If it weren't for such excellent teachers, staff and administration at this school, I think we would be in a much worse situation but I also feel like their needs aren't being met either!
I do not think that one group deserves a special program more than another. I think both the ED kids and the ASD kids need something equally. Within the school system, it is BOTH these groups that are being UNDERSERVED and it is BOTH these groups where there is so much potential.
I would love your take on this. I go around and around with myself and I get no where. So please.... discuss......