Waking up this morning to the news that Glasgow City Council intend to review the laws about the guidance on the placement of Autistic children in mainstream schools was a very welcome start to the day.
Being a parent with a daughter who is on the spectrum and at the age to start school in August, I was frustrated at being told that the decision was out of my hands. I cannot understand how a panel are better capable of making such a decision on individual children without parental input. In an ideal world I’m sure all parents would rather their kids attended mainstream school but it just simply isn’t that easy. Us parents know our children better than anyone and that is where the decision should come from all along.
There are many perceived positives to autistic children being placed in mainstream school such as kids being given the chance to interact with their peers, many of whom they attended nursery with. Being brought up in the typical way that most of us were and maybe even learn from their peers can be beneficial but the problem is that there are far more negatives than positives to the inclusion of children with ASD in mainstream in my opinion. Some of the most important are:
- Most ASD kids need a 1 to 1 service that meets their educational and pastoral needs. Being put in a class with 30 or more just simply won’t work and it could also be a disruption to other kids
- There is the safety aspect of children with ASD moving round the school unsupervised
- When kids have extra learning needs, is there a point of having a child in a class of mixed abilities only to learn at a slower pace?
- Are the high functioning kids who excel in comparison to their peers being disadvantaged?
There are so many things to take into consideration and every parent has their own views of their own children and it’s these views that should be respected and sought out before any decisions are made. Partnership working is essential between families and educationalists and hopefully that is what shall come of these latest reviews by the City Council.
With ASD being such a wide spectrum of needs, it also brings many additional thoughts to be considered in regards to whether your child should attend/not attend mainstream school.
Logic tells me that most parents have the better understanding of their children and while there may be a few who simply choose mainstream from a selfish perspective, as well as those parents who are still in denial parents and authorities all have to take a step back and forget ego and budgets and focus on what is the best option for each individual child with additional needs. This is not the time for cutbacks on what are the most important years of anyone’s life…childhood!
The method of placement should never become a numbers game with targets on inclusion and diversity, this isn’t a sales job where sales are expected to convert to profit; this is about our children who are all individually unique in all their ways.
I believe we need to focus on learning how to teach children because it isn’t all black and white and methods that work for some won’t necessarily work for others and more so for children with ASD, so making individual decisions about individual children is essential and while mainstream may work for some it will not work for all. All I want for my child is the chance to make the best choice.
I, like many parents, are relieved to hear that there will be reviews and welcome the fact that parents views shall also be considered and urge all parents to voice their opinion in a constructive manner and hopefully common sense shall prevail.
About the Author: Damon is the father of an autistic child and is currently facing the challenges of making the right decision on how his daughter’s educational needs are met as she gets to school age this year.