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Cynthia’s Thoughts on Autism and Education

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Just as there are differing theories regarding the causes of autism, there are varied thoughts on whether there are more people with autism now or better diagnostics.

Many students with autism may have received a different diagnosis in the past.  There is ongoing, valuable research into the significant increase in numbers of children currently being diagnosed.


Two of the most noticeable areas of difficulty for children with autism are social skills and communication. Yet, just like the general population, we find that there is wide variance within those on the Autism Spectrum.  Many children with autism long for and establish personal friendships. Many do not.

I have observed over the 25 years that I have had children in public and private school settings, that the deck is often stacked against a “different” learner. While support and special education services are better than ever, the need to self monitor is so much greater than in my childhood, that I often wonder how many of my friends from elementary school would been diagnosised or labeled.


At the one end of the spectrum, we talk about kids with ADD/ADHD.   When we were kids, we took our papers to school and the teacher called for us to turn in homework in a methodical and accountable way: pass your paper from the back to the front; then left to right. Your neighbor turned to you and waited until you produced the homework. If it didn’t happen, there was some embarrassment as the entire class turned in work around you. Now we expect six year olds to go to school, unload their backpack, organize their work and turn in math to the green bin and writing in the red bin. We put a lot of expectation on their ability to organize at a very young age.  And if a student carries his crumbled homework in a backpack for a week or two, swings his backpack at a classmate, or stares into space when the homework request is made, he will likely be evaluated for ADHD.  I am not in any way disputing the validity of this, but merely pointing out that our young children have so much self-monitored responsibilty.  Heck, we even had lunch ladies who made us eat everything (even green beans) before we could play!


Ultimately, there are many different therapies and treatments that people try for their children.  Some children make significant changes.  The problem is that there is no one intervention that has been proven to help everyone.  That makes it difficult for parents to make decisions about what to do.


It's important to understand how each child can be successful and to broaden our definition of success. We want to diagnose to provide help and support but not to define accomplishment and success.

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