Sunday, October 19, 2008

How Not to Handle "Behavior-Disordered" Kids

This article in today's Kansas City Star is appalling.

The short version, for those who don't want to click the link, is that schools are increasingly choosing to lock disruptive children --- often children who have autism or other developmental disabilities --- in small, isolated "time-out rooms," sometimes for hours at a time.

There's a quote, midway through the article, from Vanderbilt University's Stephen Camarata, that I think is right on the money:
I believe [the use of time-out rooms by schools is] because classrooms are much less flexible, with more focus on compliance.

That's probably the worst possible outcome of mainstreaming: that the special-needs kids' special needs are completely forgotten, and they are either ignored (if they're quiet) or punished (if they're not quiet).

When I think about myself as a child (and, really, even up into young adulthood), I see someone who takes what she is told absolutely literally, and who has a hard time recognizing the signs of physical distress. While a normal child, if she were getting hungry, dehydrated, feeling faint or having to go to the bathroom, would raise a fuss or decide to leave the room anyway to take care of herself, I would not have had the maturity or the self-awareness to do that.

I don't think teachers always realize just how vulnerable their autistic students are.

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