Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Autism and the Law

I attended a well-known Special Education Law Conference this past week and walked away with some major thoughts and concerns.

I sat in the last row by the aisle so that I could watch and observe the interactions going on among the attendees. There was another room with about 20 exhibits from local and national vendors on all sorts of training and information on special education needs. The majority was related to Autism.

1) The conference was sold out (500+) and over 90% were parents, 8% educators and 2% others (including Lawyers). These are approximate numbers based on hands raised when asked by the instructor who was attending.

I was part of the 8% and was stunned that not more administrators and special education leaders attended. Perhaps they have their own in-service training on the subject but my own application data says this is not true.

2) It became apparent that special education laws are quite clear when it comes to student and parental rights, it was also realized that most of the parents and caretakers had no idea what goes on before, during and after Individual Education Plans (IEP) are developed and agreed upon by the school system and that parents.

No matter what you may think institutions of educations are a business and are run in a short-term budgetary driven objectives. Budgets and dollars drive decisions, not the best interest of the child in most public schools. Do not get me wrong, the good folks who work in Special Ed Departments mean well and are hard working individuals who also want what is best for the children but the system in which they work (money from government) will not allow this to happen because of the limited funds they receive.

The “Demise of the American Education System” is a direct result of the continuous Demise of the American Management System” because no one has an Aim/Method that is an on-going plan of action that understands both short term and long term planning. There is way too much “Tampering” within the silos and castles that make up a system.

3) Most importantly Lawyers, Lawmakers and Educators do still not understand “Autism” and the impact that is upon us and there is no preparation for the onslaught that will be entering the school systems in the next five tears.

During the training very useful segment on understand school testing and how it related to special education was done. My point and question that I raised was the current mode and method of testing to determine where an Autistic child should be placed or what their achievement level is capable of is flawed with ignorance.

Educators who work daily with mainstreamed autistic children and others who are labeled as contained are riddled with flawed testing. In fact the tester does not complete most of the testing I was in the room for because of the lack of understanding. Autistic children are all different and the current means of testing wants to put them in a box.

Here is another news flash for you statisticians and number crunchers. What you call the Bell Curve is not appropriate when it comes to Autistic and many Special Education Children. They each have their own categories thus requiring their own means of testing. You take the short cuts because of time and money and put them in buckets according to ‘normal” testing.

What you must understand is Autistic children are the outliers on your normal curve. Why? It’s just I just said they do not belong in that process. If you understand Control Charts and SPC you will know that most outliers are a result of combing processes together that deliver wide variation of results. You just remove the outliers into their own process group and then reconfigure your data.

Last news flash, Outliers are not always bad, if they are good discover why and replicate to improve your process.

We really on standardized forms and calculations today and people just plug in numbers and wait for some program to provide them with categories and standard answers for why a student belongs in that group. So sad when it comes to our special children because this is the mask that most public schools hide behind when making decisions about your child.

Parents, please learn your rights.

4) Most of the attendees (parents) wanted to know more about their autistic children.

I can’t tell you how many conversations I heard on parents venting their frustration with their school system on how their child was being treated.

Personally I had six conversations about being an aide/para pro and what were my qualifications or how they get one for their child and why can’t the system understand that “SOCIALIZATION” is the autistic child’s main disability and not academics (again, there is no testing that determines this accurately).

It causes me great anguish to listen and see their tired and frazzled faces tell me their experiences.

5) I talked to a college professor (former public school psychologist) whose college has started an Autistic program about some of these problems on break.

He told me how his college plans on training the aides and paraprofessionals who work wit mainstreamed and contained autistic children because most of them have no training and just yell at the children.

I asked him how long it would take for his program to produce book learned professionals on autism and would it meet the demand that is now and in the near future. He looked at me funny as to say what and who are you?

Sorry folks, it comes down to money and not need with the people making the standards for our children. They want to train the people who spend seven hours a day, five days a week with autistic children (I agree this is good) but they have no plans to gain the knowledge and be taught by the people what have application knowledge.

6) Lastly, overall I thought the conference was very good because of the learning I obtained and the anguish I heard.

However, I was disappointed in the Q & A session at the end. There was an overwhelming amount of autism related questions submitted and none were selected to be addressed by the panel made up of lawyers and specialist

More proof as to the seriousness of this problem in our schools.

Here are two sites that can provide you with additional information on the laws




Jean said...

Well stated, I hope to attend one of these conferences in my area this year.


Anonymous said...

There is so much to learn on this subject. Thanks for sharing your experiences. I am from England and we have the same problems here too.