Inclusion is one of those things that people generally agree with in principal. Once it gets down to the actual act of including disabled kids, they are much less open minded. Parents of disabled and autistic children have spent years fighting for even the most basic levels of inclusion in society. One of the biggest places that we see the debate for inclusion continue is in our school system. When my grandparents went to school disabled children weren’t allowed at all. Since then, parents have been fighting to get their children’s right to education and equality with typical children. Still, many people ask, where do we draw the line when it comes to inclusion and autistic kids?
This post is a part of the Autism A-Z Series for Autism Acceptance Month. Be sure to check out the first post here for links to all of the rest of the posts. I’m also still hosting the Fundanoodle Fundraiser for the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, so be sure to get your orders in here! And back to the topic..
Inclusion and Autistic Kids
Why Is Inclusion Better for Autistic Kids?
Some would argue that inclusion in a typical classroom setting doesn’t help autistic kids to learn as there are so many different distractions. Wouldn’t it be better for those kids to be in special classrooms with more highly trained staff who are ready to meet their specific educational needs? Well, not really.
See, in special education segregated classes, the main focus can be on things outside of education. The standards are much lower, and children are often not challenged at all. Beyond that, many kids in segregated classes like that do well socially with children with similar abilities to them, but struggle socially with typically developing children.
Inclusion allows autistic children to develop socially with their peers and practice various social niceties in a relatively safe environment.
Why Is Inclusion Better for Neurotypical Kids?
I know, some of you may be disagreeing me right about now, but stay with me for this one. Neurotypical children can benefit from having autistic kids and other disabled children in their classes. When neurotypical kids spend more time around disabled children, they grow up with a greater understanding and sense of empathy.
Many of you reading this are adults who are still relatively new to truly understanding autism. Wouldn’t it be so much simpler if you grew up side by side with autistic people as a normal part of your life? If you were taught from five years old that some people have brains and bodies that work differently and they need different things to support them?
Mr. C is only six years old, but he’s grown up with two disabled brothers and he’s the most empathetic and understanding kid I know. He doesn’t know any different.
How Does Inclusion Work?
This is basically as simple as it sounds. It truly just means to include autistic kids and other disabled children in classes with typical children. Keep them in the same classrooms and give them the same educational opportunities as everyone else.
Does that take some effort on everyone’s part? Yes. A classroom must all work together to make inclusion work. Whether that looks like sensory breaks for the children who need it throughout the day, fidget toys to use through lessons, teaching coping skills for children struggling with the distractions, etc.
Where Do We Draw The Line?
This is a tough question and I believe that it truly varies on a case-by-case basis. In my opinion, inclusion is not the best option when it puts other children in physical danger. What makes it difficult is when it becomes a battle of whose education is more important.
If kid one is autistic and would benefit greatly from an inclusive classroom environment, but kid two is neurotypical and having kid one’s loud volume is distracting and impacting kid two’s education, who is more important? Who takes priority?
It’s a very sticky situation. I can’t say definitively that one way is right or wrong, it’s for each family and classroom to decide that. I will say, however, that I tend to lean towards inclusion. Every child deserves the right to a quality education, and typical children with annoying or frustrating habits aren’t cheated out of an education because of them.
Overall, in most scenarios I believe that inclusion should be the first step. If it truly isn’t working, then parents, children, and school staff can go from there and make arrangements that work best for everyone. Don’t forget to check out the rest of the posts in the Autism A-Z series here, and get your orders in for the Autistic Self Advocacy Network Fundraiser here!