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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Non-Inclusive Inclusion

Lisa Jo Rudy writes that "inclusion" programs are a fine idea, but...

All too often, though, community programs for people with autism are simply dead ends. They don't provide a stepping stone or scaffolding to help the child, teen or family with autism build the skills to join the general community. Families can take part in these special programs, or not. But there's no support for or interest in taking the next step - or even in creating programs to support families with older or adult children on the autism spectrum.

I just got off the phone with a representative of a music education program for children with autism - a wonderful idea, in theory. She seemed offended, however, when I asked whether autistic music students perform at recitals with typical music students. She seemed very uncomfortable with the thought that her instructors might facilitate inclusion of autistic music students in typical school bands. Every aspect of the music program is, apparently, hermetically sealed off from the rest of the world.

I've seen many sports programs available only to young children with autism. These programs, run by well-meaning adults, are specifically geared to teaching social skills rather than sports skills. There's no interaction between the "special" and the "typical" youth sports directors. As a result, when the children age out of such programs they're no more able to play a typical sport than they were before they started. And now, as they begin to enter their teen years, they have no place to go.