I have a dear friend that had a really rough time with her twin sons with Autism and the public school last year. They were placed into a ‘high functioning autism’ cluster unit. The problem is that it wasn’t at all a good fit for her boys. The teacher, principal and school district pretty much gave her an all or all scenario: either keep the kids in the cluster unit, or… keep the kids in the cluster unit.
My friend tried to get the boys integrated into a general education classroom to be with their peers and have more appropriate behavior modeled, but as a special education teacher, I know that if you WANT children with Autism to fit into a general education classroom, you can almost always make it happen. If you DON’T want children with Autism to fit into a classroom, well, you can usually make that happen as well. Bless her heart, my friend tried really hard to work things out.
She ended up pulling the boys from school in January and resorting to home schooling. Jump forward to yesterday. Her school district split, and she is in the new district that was formed. She made an appointment with the people in charge of the special education department in the new district to hopefully see about getting some services such as speech and OT even though she didn’t plan to enroll the kids in the school this year either.
We both feel pretty good about the direction the new district is headed. My hackles were raised at one point because the team we met with kept saying that they wanted to do “what’s best for kids”. It always raises a red flag for me when people say this. It is so subjective! What they really mean is “what’s best for kids–according to ME“! For one teacher what’s “best for kids” is cluster units; for another, it’s integration into general education classrooms.
The special education director said repeatedly that they couldn’t make any decisions until they saw data and convened an IEP team. Good answer! She didn’t have a preconception in her head about what was best for these kids before she got to know their situation. THAT is a good sign that she really does want what’s best for kids.
It hit me that there isn’t really a solution to the subjectivity of “what’s best for kids”. There CAN’T be, because if there were a set of standards that everyone adhered to, we wouldn’t be able to meet the needs of individual kids. So, the trick is to find people whose philosphy about “what’s best for kids” matches your own.
I’m excited for my friend, because I think her new school district really will do what is best for her kids.