Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Schools and Behavior

ASAN Southwest Ohio recently received an inquiry from a Cincinnati educator who wanted to discuss school policies regarding special needs children and behavioral issues. She wrote that she was recently assigned to work with two autistic children and that she has been doing her own research to gain a better understanding of their needs. Although she loves her job, she says, it frustrates her that the school does not seem to have an effective policy for dealing with behavioral incidents. The children she teaches have been placed in a room with five non-autistic children identified as having severe behavioral handicaps, and she feels that this placement is not helping her students. When she reports behavioral incidents, nothing is done to address the problems.

We responded by discussing the federal requirement that as to special needs children, responses to behavioral issues must be determined on an individual basis, according to each student's needs as identified in the IEP. Of course, this does not mean that teachers should deal with behavioral problems on an ad hoc basis, just making things up as they go along. Children need consistency from their teachers in addressing behavioral issues, and such consistency can be especially important for autistic children. It is therefore advisable for each special needs student to have an individual plan that identifies problematic behaviors (if any) and the appropriate responses by teachers and staff to those behaviors. When a behavioral incident is reported, the plan should be reviewed, in consultation with the parents, to determine what classroom changes and accommodations could be helpful to the child's development. Teachers who work with special needs children should receive regular continuing education to improve their understanding of behavioral differences.

We also agreed that the placement she described was not helpful for her autistic students. ASAN advocates for inclusive settings for children with developmental differences, rather than segregated placements. Inclusive education recognizes that all children have the potential to contribute to society, that their differences should be respected, and that they should receive reasonable accommodations when necessary. All children benefit from a greater understanding of the diverse ways in which humans learn and adapt to our surroundings.

ASAN Southwest Ohio welcomes inquiries from educators and others who seek to learn more about the characteristics and needs of the autistic population.


Anonymous said...

The placement mentioned (behavior disorder class) is an improper placement. Behavior disorder classrooms deal with an entirely different population than autism (ODD, Anti-Social Personality Disorder etc.). These are not classrooms autistic children should be placed in, period and the parents need to ask for a different placement.


Club 166 said...

Although these type of placements are wrong, unfortunately they are not rare.

Our son was placed in an ED class (emotionally disturbed) with a number of students that were older than him, because they were the only ones close to him in academics. Obviously the exact wrong thing to do. It took us several months and a lawyer to get that placement changed.


JulieJordanScott said...

My son is also in an ED classroom. And ofcourse, several months into the placement another student took him into the rest room during recess to "have sex with him"... the little boy in question was suspended for five days.

And then back in the classroom.

With my little boy.

Tara said...

It shouldn't be that way, but the mere fact that the teacher is asking ASAN for input and questions the wisdom of that placement is something so rare that it deserves standing ovation...

Yes, totally inappropriate placement. For someone who has no real insight into inner workings of autism it is quite easy to figure out that kids with autism have outwardly similar behaviour difficulties as kids with emotional disturbances so, gee, logical thing is to place them together. Fact that the cause of (mis)behaviour is strikingly different is often overlooked.