Autism Integration Mustn't Be a Boilerplate Approach

Educational and recreational segregation used to be the model for children with special needs. Then, integration came into vogue. Now we’re got segregationists debating integrationists, and truly, we’re all missing the point.

Recently I heard an interview given by a blogger,
Harold Dougherty who describes his child being forced into an integrated setting that was a disaster for his son. He describes the new bureaucrat in charge as being an integration extremist, with very bad consequences for the child. This situation is outrageous!

The issue is not segregation versus integration, but rather that children should never be FORCED to be either integrated or segregated. Instead of being placed in a setting that works best for the child in consultation with the child’s treatment team, some children are apparently placed based on a) the philosophy of the reigning bureaucrat or “educrat” of the day and/or b) the cheapest placement for the school district.

Every child should have the right to be integrated when the integration works FOR THAT CHILD. When an integrated setting is inappropriate and does not work, the answer is not a segregated setting with a group of children who are being ghettoized but rather, one-on-one treatment that is
customized for the specific child with autism. Then, the treatment professional can grab every possible integration opportunity available for that child when it works, and can work toward integration opportunities when the child needs to learn pro-social behaviors and routines prior to the effort at integration.

To illustrate, it may be counterproductive for an untreated child suffering from severe autism to be placed in a calculus class. Prior to placing the child in the integrated setting, he or she needs to learn the skills and routines to be successful in that setting. This goes for educational settings as well
as recreational settings.

Put simply, the autism treatment team, along with the parent, should be making all integration decisions for the child rather than the school district!

For any education bureaucrats out there, remember, Individual Education Plans (IEPs) are called “individual” for a reason!