Integrating Students with Autism?

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Listen to Autistic Adults

There are a number of wonderful adults on the autism spectrum talking about the importance of inclusion over segregation. They share stories of how they felt left out, shamed, and more by the manner in which we do things with very good intentions.

Listen in to non-speaking adults

It is morally, logically, and legally our job to include all children in classrooms

Did you know that the law says we need to be offering every child's home school as the first option for placement!? That we have to do everything in our power to offer services within that school and the child's classroom - NOT that we have to prove a child is worthy of inclusion!? Congress passed legislation on this years ago and I still attend IEP after IEP where placement is first offered as a segregated placement just because of the diagnosis of autism. We are responsible as parents, professionals, teachers, and administrators to figure out how to include students with disabilities. Teams may say "we don't do things that way," or "we don't have the resources to do that," but did you know? The IEP can include not only supports to the student but supports to the staff to include the student!

What is the LRE (Least Restrictive Environment)?

Inclusion should not inspire you. It should be the norm.

Do not be inspired by videos on your social media feed of people wheeled out to shoot the winning basket, the special education classroom running the coffeecart at your work place, or the kindness of someone doing something for someone with disabilites. This should be the norm. We are all diverse, colorful, differently abled, and have our own personal histories. People with disabilities should be embedded in our everyday norm.

Check out Keith James on Inclusion

At what cost are we choosing segregation?

Students with autism are the most at risk to have challenges in social collaboration, cooperation, and teamwork - yet we take away that opportunity by excluding them to go elsewhere to learn academics. Ask yourself what you remember most about your years in school. Do you remember the facts or do you remember friendships and play? All students must learn to cooperate with one another. By segregating children with disabilities, you are also depriving the children without special needs to learn to cooperate with those with differences. Don't we want adults in our community who feel comfortable and confident engaging their community members with differences!?

Check out LeDerick Horne's Website

Everyone must feel that they have a contribution

Imagine if our IEPs (Individual Education Plans) detailed what a student was good at and how to bring those abilities to the included table? We all have strengths. And everyone should feel celebrated for those strengths and differences. Instead, we guide children down paths of disability shame or disability pride (thank you, LeDerick Horne, for these phrases). Which path are you guiding children to take? Why can't we figure out how to celebrate while still working hard to alleviate obstacles to inclusion which leads to life long happiness, confidence, and undersanding? Our communities are no longer segregated settings. Why are our schools still guiding our young population to disability-shame? Children are not born into discrimination. It is taught.

Check out Shelley Moore's 5 Moore Minutes

Still not convinced?

Think integration is not in the best interest of all students? Check out this article summarizing the research showing the benefits for both disabled AND non-disabled students. One of my favorite quotes from the article: "The inclusion of students with disabilities can serve as a catalyst for school-wide improvements that yield benefits for disabled and non-disabled students alike."

And even more evidence for the benefits of inclusion can be found HERE.

Convinced but trying to figure out HOW?

Are you looking for great ideas for accommodations that will work for all students, especially those with autism? Check out Jonathan Chase's super accessible book: From Surviving to Thriving.

You can also listen to my Synergy Autism Podcast interview with Jonathan when his book first came out by clicking here.

And here are accommodations you can make to include students in your classroom or school today.

As a teacher, how can you advocate for inclusion?

Want the teacher angle? Here is a great article by a teacher in favor of integration

 

 

Want More? 

Listen in to myself and Dr. Kristie Pretti-Frontczak discuss inclusion and the Autistic Child - SEE BELOW