As schools have become "behavior management factories" what has the benefit been to students with autism - from the most severely affected non-speaking to those with what we used to call Asperger's? My youngest had the worst time of it in school, particularly when she was in high school. I spent 4 years having IEP meetings reviewing chart after chart of her "SIB" (self-injurious behavior) and AGGRESSION. The SIB was slapping or pounding her thigh. The aggression was slapping the desk. At one point, school assigned her two paras - one to work with her and one to click click data to chart. I once asked a teacher, "How would you feel if your boss took away your coffee mug as soon as you walked in and you had to EARN every sip of coffee in the morning, by someone else's chart of success? Or if your phone was taken away and you had to perform dull, repetitive, often insulting work to earn a 5 minute break on your phone?" My older daughters are 25 and 26. Their demeanors have improved since leaving school. I think they feel free to be themselves for the first time since.... preschool.
If you have begun Spelling2Communicate, HALO, assistive technology or other successful efforts to allow your son or daughter to convey their intelligence, their hopes, their thoughts, their fears, what have you learned? When I read JB Handley's book Underestimated, An Autism Miracle, one sentence in the manuscript stuck with me. So much that I influenced the final name of the book (not taking a bow, but sharing how much this impacted me.) When he asked his son Jamie how he felt about teachers who made him do preschool work for 12 years, who treated him like he was unable to learn or progress, he told his Dad that he thought the teachers had "...earnestly underestimated him..." I thought that was one of the most forgiving, mature statements I'd ever read and called JB immediately to tell him I thought it was his title.
The author of this Psychology Today article is local - I think I'll contact her.
Marcia Eckerd, Ph.D., has been working with neurodiverse clients for over 30 years. She has been appointed by the State Legislature of CT to serve on the CT Autism Spectrum Disorder Advisory Council and is on the Clinical Advisory Group of AANE.org (Autism/Aspergers Network). She serves on the Professional Advisory Board of Smart Kids with LD as well as the Community Medical Staff in Psychiatry at Norwalk Hospital. She’s written multiple professional peer-reviewed journals on the diagnosis of autism, as well as contributing to Autism Spectrum News and multiple other websites and publications.
From Psychology Today:
1) We must understand the behavior of autistic children to help them.
2) Responding without understanding diminishes the personhood, self-esteem and trust of autistic kids.
3) Providing an environment sensitive to the needs of autistic students benefits all students.
For most autistic children, school can be a toxic environment. Working on the advice of experts, school staff aim to have autistic children’s behavior conform to neurotypical expectations. The more a child is indistinguishable from mainstream peers, the more successful the school intervention is believed to be.
Disruptive or atypical behavior is labeled oppositional, avoidant, attention-seeking, rude, or simply inappropriate. Children who don’t “cooperate” (meaning engage in and respond to school-led, behavioral interventions) are often called non-compliant. The issue is seen to be the child, not the intervention itself. Autistic children are often taught that what they feel, think, or do is wrong and they should do what they are told instead. This can have a life-long impact on self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-advocacy. Quoting a student on a Stanford University panel, “It kills my soul.”
The issue of quashing self-confidence and self-advocacy is worth considering since schools expect students to “participate in post-secondary planning.” According to a 2017 study, “77 percent of autistic high school students play a very limited role or no role at all in post-secondary planning compared to 47 percent of students with intellectual disabilities and 27 percent of students with all other disabilities.” (Gillespie-Lynch, K. et al 2017)
Many interventions treat behavior perceived from the outside, without understanding the meaning or necessity for the child. The behavior is the tip of an iceberg that goes down to sensory, social, emotional, motoric, and cognitive issues the child experiences. A child who is “acting out” may be responding to internal frustration, overstimulation, anxiety, or some other distress. Plans often focus on eliminating the “acting out” behavior instead of recognizing distress. We need to support children, not single-mindedly focus on correcting behavior. READ MORE HERE.