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Friday, December 24, 2010

Education, Scarcity, and Philanthropy

Cutbacks in Detroit schools are hitting kids on the spectrum, the Detroit Free Press reports:

Meanwhile, some classes of autistic children -- at schools including Detroit School of Arts West at Langston Hughes and Durfee and Phoenix elementary schools -- were suddenly transferred midsemester because of overcrowding and inadequate planning that left some schools with too many autistic students and other schools with too few.

One parent, Steven Thomas, said a cab showed up at his home in October to take his 12-year-old autistic son, Steven, to new teachers and classmates at Marquette Elementary -- 25 miles east of his current school, Hughes.

Like many children with autism, sudden changes to Steven's routine can set him back. "Autistic children are so vulnerable, why would they do this?" his father asked. Thomas said that after complaining, he was able to keep his son at Hughes.

Bobb said school officials apparently failed to communicate to parents the decision to transfer some autistic students. "These parents' concerns are totally legit," [district official Robert] Bobb said.

At San Jose Inside, Pete Campbell has a suggestion for billionaires who want to give away money:

[P] provide funding for one-on-one tutorial services for kids on the Autism spectrum. Our educational system is woefully unequipped to meet the needs of kids (and families) dealing with this growing epidemic. Autism is this generation’s polio. It will take an incredible amount of money and other resources to meet the challenge. Currently, only the wealthiest among us are able to provide for the care necessary to “mainstream” some of these children.

A comment on the post suggests that an even more effective use of the money would be to support training instead of direct services. This approach makes great sense in the case of autism, given the shortage of highly trained therapists.