Mainstreaming Children with Autism

Nadia Shanab | Uncategorized
11 Sep 2013

Dear Parents,

Here comes another school year along with lots of hopes and loads of goals for your child’s future!

Over the summer break you have probably set some goals for your child and pictured her in a certain setting that would rather satisfy your dreams. Good job! This exactly what parents are here for. You are your child’s best advocate. Your enthusiasm and motivation are much needed  to give your child the best chance to receive great education and appropriate services. Yet here are some points to be taken into consideration to accomplish your mission:

1- Make sure your child is ready for mainstream. Leaving her comfort zone-her special day class (SDC)-can be very challenging. Moving to the general education setting can be very overwhelming. The pace is faster, the social cues play a role in the class dynamics, a high level of attention is required at all times, group activities are a routine, being a problem-solver is expected, many life skills are needed. For example: is your child ready to organize a five-section binder by herself? Does she know when to say please and thank you? Is she able to speak up and express her self? Would she appologize for hurting somebody (physically or psychologically)? Can she copy her homework from the board?

Additionally, mainstream classes are three times larger than Special Day Classes (SDC). They are noisier, and don’t cater for sensory integration issues.

2- Be realistic. Don’t put too much pressure on your child. If a child is asked and expected to achieve what is beyond her capacity (academically/physicall/psychologically), she may not be able to hold herself together during the school day. She may break down and throw a temper tantrum. You don’t want to stress her out to the point where she may abandon the whole idea of going to school all together.

3- Don’t compare your child with anybody else. Know that children develop mentally and physically at a different pace. Maybe your child cannot tie her shoes yet, but on the other hand she can solve a math word problem. Remember there are no two children alike on the autism spectrum. If typically developed kids in mainstream are able to perform certain tasks and your child cannot, that is absolutely acceptable. Don’t feel bad about it. Your child either needs more time to learn how to do it, or she is meant to take a completely different path in life.

4- Know that maintream teachers are already loaded with work to do for their own classes. They have to accept your child in their class by law. The fact of the matter is that not all teachers are trained to work with special needs students. Do they really get a formal training? I am not sure. Besides, both students  and teachers need a transition period to get to know each other. Typically developed children need to be educated to accept special needs peers in their class. It takes the teacher time and effort to explain to the entire class how to treat their peer with special needs. It is really hard on everyone to adjust from day one. So parents, please be patient.

5- Don’t be judgemental. As a parent you are so in a rush to see your child at the functioning level you’ve hoped for on the first day of school. Let your child adjust and acquire the skills and habits she needs to fit into the new system. In mainstream your child will learn the new rules of her class. She will also learn to be more independent and proactive. It takes the teachers time to train her to become part of the class.

6- Be an effective communicator. It is never enough to emphasize the importance of communication. Network with the school staff involved in your child’s education. Instead of assuming or guessing teachers’ minds, ask them openly about your concerns.

Volunteer to do some class chores to help teachers focus more on instruction.

Know that school is working with families to achieve the best possible results for your child.

Read this article for more details.

nadia shanab

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