Family Forum discusses what supports there are for autistic children in mainstream schooling…
I have been very interested in all the recent talk about children with autism in mainstream classes. I am concerned about marginalising children but also am wondering about what supports learning. What is the panel’s opinion?
Recent comments from well-known figures has raised awareness of autism. This may be a positive but may also be to the detriment of some students with autism.
Initially it is important that we all recognise that autism is not a “one size fits all” disorder. There is an autism spectrum. Those at one end will show some difficulty in socialising and interpersonal interactions but in most other areas will function normally. Those at the severe end of the spectrum can lack almost all communication skills and be unable to speak and certainly be unable to read.
It is important that young people with autism receive appropriate help. The initial step is correct diagnosis. If a parent or teacher suspects autistic traits they should seek testing and diagnosis from a trained psychologist. Schools will seek to provide in class support (either by teachers or trained aides) for most students. However, there are some schools which do provide special classes for the more severely affected.
In general, the panel believes that students on the autism spectrum can best be catered for in a regular school environment. In addition, we believe that the rest of the school population can benefit by realising that there is a great diversity of personalities and learning to accept these differences. The panel does not believe that the presence of students with most degrees of autism in a regular class should impede the progress of other students.
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