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Sunday, January 6, 2013

Problems with Public School

At The Atlantic, Amy Mackin writes of her son's problems with the public school system:
Unfortunately, again, no one was paying attention during the most difficult parts of Henry's day—the unsupervised social settings. Henry suffered a serious breakdown that year. He hadn't told anyone, but, as it turned out, he had been bullied on the school bus for months.
The autism spectrum is wide and varied, and every autistic person is unique. People like Henry need someone looking out for them, particularly in overwhelming environments like school. The problem is that public schools are mostly worried about academics and test scores. They have to be—their success in those areas dictates the percentage of state and federal funding they get. Few schools have designated psychologists (most often, multiple schools share the same one). Teachers aren't psychologists, and asking them to be is not fair.
This puts kids with Asperger's in a particularly precarious spot. Many of these children are above average academically, even gifted in certain subjects. Special-education departments tend to focus on helping students with learning disabilities. But kids with Asperger's often don't need academic support. They need help navigating social interactions. When typical middle school boys are showing interest in girls and competitive sports, their Asperger's counterparts are often still playing with toys and building with Legos. The Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus are still very real for many of these kids, even as they approach the teen years.