Remarkably, in most school settings, students with Autism are viewed through the lens of only their limitations or because they have average to above average IQ they are viewed as though they have no learning differences at all. Thus, they are either subjected to very low standards or unrealistically high expectations or both.
To appreciate the challenge level of educating students with Autism more fully we need to examine what Autism is and how it shows up in the classroom. One of the most common characteristics of a student with Autism is that while they can have above average IQ, they can lack social skills or the ability to see events from another point of view. For example, they can blurt out thoughts during lessons in class that come across as disruptive, rude or disrespectful to the teacher even though the comment could have been on topic. In these kinds of moments, the student is making a deep connection and a superpower of higher-level thinking has been activated.
Another Autistic characteristic can be stubbornness coupled with expert-sounding rationalizations and the seemingly inexhaustible ability to argue a point to the death.
In school settings these are just a few of many behaviors that require specific strategies to teach the student to become more socially appropriate and to teach the student to focus their energy more productively. Teacher credentialling programs to not educate the teachers how to have excellent classroom leadership skills, recognize and implement interventions on the fly, or how to implement individualized instruction with this group of mainstreamed special education students in the classroom. They also do not learn deeply enough about Autism. There are several subcategories of Autism: Asperger’s, Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Rett Syndrome, Kanner’s Syndrome, and Childhood Disintegrative Disorder. Twice Exceptional teachers are more equipped to teach this segment of the school population. Based on the Autism prevalence statistics stated earlier, 46 autistic students could be in a high school and 44% of those (20 students) would be mainstreamed because they are high functioning (Autism Speaks). This number has increased every year for the past 30 years and is expected to increase even more in the future. In junior high or high school, a teacher would have about 1-2 Autistic students in half of their classes. It is hard for teachers to keep track and deliver on accommodations, not to mention that it is very rare for a teacher to expertly utilize specific Autism strategies.
At Brighthouse, we recognize that the children in our community are at great risk. Nearly 85% of people with Autism never move out of their parent’s house (Disability Scoop), nearly half of 25-year-olds with Autism never hold a paying job (Autism Speaks), 40% spend little to no time with friends (CDC), nearly two-thirds of children with Autism between the ages of 6 and 15 have been bullied (Autism Speaks), 7% of children and 26% of adults with Autism have depression, 40 % of children and teens with Autism have anxiety, and almost 50% are diagnosed with chronic sleep problems. Only 5% of people with Autism ever marry, and adults with Autism who marry often find it difficult to stay married; research puts the divorce rate at about 80% (Autism-Help).
Isn’t it time to find another alternative to school, another chance for your child to thrive, another outcome to beat the above statistics, find a place to succeed and to live a happier life? Isn’t it time to call Brighthouse? A lot can happen in a year!