by: Andrea M. Chouhan, M.Ed
I recently read an article that labeled autism as a “problem in schools.” At first I was a bit shocked, but as I continued reading, I understood the reasoning behind that label. Many schools lack the appropriate funding to give children with autism an appropriate education. Materials used in a special education classroom differ in many ways and of course, they are costly. For example, many children with autism require a visual daily schedule which can be created using Boardmaker software (which I love, by the way!) The basic software costs $399, though…but it is well worth it.
Many years ago, in America, there were special schools for children requiring special education. Children were turned away from attending a “regular school. Children with autism may have been mislabeled as mentally retarded, also. Luckily, we understand autism and other disabilities much better now. America has certainly come a long way as children with special needs now have a lawful right for an appropriate education.
I am proud to work with special needs children! I am proud to be doing so in America. Last year, I worked in Saudi Arabia where many schools are run with privatized funding. Sadly, some schools do not even accept children with autism or lower IQ’s. Many of these schools do not have trained teachers or classrooms for these children. Other schools that I came in contact with, did have Special Education Departments, however, they were at maximum capacity. Many special needs children were turned away. School systems that I have worked with in Texas actually make space, send the child to a nearby campus, or hire more teachers to teach children with special needs. They make it work instead of turning them away.
Did you know that autism affects 1 in 150 children in American? New Jersey is even called a hot spot where 1 in 95 children have autism! These numbers are staggering, I must say! The cost to fund one autistic student can level out at $19,000 a year, which is triple that of a typical child! This includes the cost of Special classrooms, Materials, Speech Therapists, Occupational Therapists, Aides and Transportation (according to the Special Education Expenditure Project). So, when schools do not have ALL of this funding, providing a “free and appropriate” education to autistic children can become a problem.
As a Special Education certified teacher, I encourage parents, leaders and teachers to be the voice of our special children. We have the role to advocate for them, and we should. These children are already part of our society and it is our job to help them learn how to socialize, apply what they learn and contribute to society (from the classroom to the workplace)!
Boardmaker Software link: http://www.mayer-johnson.com/boardmaker-software/?gclid=CNOj7_efgrgCFQdk7AodLWwAfA
Smith, F. (2013) Educators Deal with the Growing Problem of Autism. http://www.edutopia.org/autism-school-special-needs