Autism Advocacy

On Special Education

Originally published January 14, 2019

In five more months, my time in public school special education will be over. I have some mixed feelings about this. On one hand, I will miss my teachers and the routine of getting on the bus each morning and having a scheduled day. On the other hand, the last thirteen years has been a waste of time from an intellectual perspective.

When I entered the public school system in the second grade, I was looking forward to being around other kids and learning some new things. The previous five years of my life had been spent doing full-time ABA therapy, mostly in my house. ABA gave me some useful skills, but I hated the learning method. Breaking everything down into its simplest parts and then repeating over and over teaches you those steps, but it doesn’t teach you how to learn on your own. Plus, it’s incredibly boring!

I quit trying after so many years of it. My mind was beyond the mundane things that I was being forced to repeat day-in and day-out. So, I stopped making progress and my parents started looking for another option. We decided to try the public school and see how I did. That is when my world of IEPs and underachieving began.

I want to be clear from the beginning that my criticism is not targeted at the teachers and support staff, as I found them all to be kind and dedicated to us. But the system is flawed, and the insistence by the administrators to use easily measurable metrics that are all evidence-based stifles the creativity of the teachers and causes damage to the students. The data that was collected month-to-month and presented at the IEPs never represented my ability or my intellect.

The problem with autism is not intellectual capacity, it is communication. That is my disability. I am quite capable of learning things on my own and absorbing information from my surroundings. That is how I know what I know, not from any of the formal lessons that I was given in the special-ed classroom.

I am writing this on my blog in the hope that someone out there will read it and have the desire and resources to do things a different way, with the kids in mind, not a certain percentage of data points that need to be met each year so that the school continues to get its funding from the government. I will be writing a series of blog posts about my thoughts and ideas. Please forward it on to anyone that you think might find it useful or helpful. I want to use my brain and my relatively recent ability to communicate to help change things for other kids in my situation. Hopefully, I can make a difference somehow.

One Comment

  • Lucas Youngblood

    Hey Arron,

    This is Lucas Youngblood again. I am a Middle School Teacher of Students with Learning Disabilities. I did my student teaching in a school called Glen Paul. It is a school for students with more severe disabilities. Many of the students are autistic and mostly non-verbal. Many others have Down’s Syndrome, and some others have physical disabilities and are considered medically fragile.

    I really apprecite your insight on the Special Education System. I feel pretty stifled by it – measurable progress and stuff like that. It makes me upset as a teacher beacuse since all my students have different goals, I feel like my options for instruction are pretty limited. The other hard thing is the limited time. Since I only have like 7 hours a day here, it doesn’t leave much time for curriculum planning (I also have two young kids at home who want their Dad to spend time with them).

    I have the desire to do things a different way, but I don’t yet have the resources. (I struggle with organization and time management, which makes my resources of time pretty limited.) I’ll let you know if I have any big breakthroughs. I’d welcome any feedback you might have for me.

    Anyway, I appreciate what you’re doing, Aaron. You’re autsim certainly has given you a voice, and I am grateful to hear it.

    – Your friend,
    Lucas Youngblood

    Please for give the poor organization of my writing. Like I said, organizaiton is not my strong suit.

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