Years ago I searched for autism special needs schools for my son David. I visited various autism special needs schools and I couldn’t understand how children with different diagnoses, ages and abilities could be grouped together in one class with one teacher and one facilitator at autism special needs schools. What I observed, instead of expert autism special needs schools catering for the needs of their learners, were care facilities lacking expertise, funding, equipment and staff. Autistic children were grouped together with physically disabled children and the schools were meant to be autism special needs schools. Grouping these kids together didn’t allow for either of the group’s needs being met.
I visited many autism special needs schools and what I saw concerned me. One of the special needs schools tied the children to their chairs in a n attempt to get them to pay attention. I couldn’t find any autism special needs schools that impressed me with its credentials or staff training. The autism special needs schools we visited, in my opinion, were merely babysitting the children. I spent time at special needs schools that had a so-called good reputations for autism and we attended a class consisting of ten children with varying diagnoses and learning challenges. The teacher assisted one of the children who couldn’t walk or talk to color in a page on the desk in front of her, forcing her to complete the task. Her desperate screams for help resonated throughout the room as she protested. She didn’t look down at the page, not even once, and I felt physically ill watching the scene unfold before us. The child became so distressed that she fell on the floor and had a seizure. It made me wonder who was giving the other nine challenged children at the autism special needs schools the attention they needed when one of the children had a seizure or needed individualized attention. It was clear to me that the class set up at the autism special needs schools wasn’t going to work for me and David. Once the child came around, it was break and the assistant carried her to the old broken rusted jungle gym outside in the garden. I asked the teacher where the playground was and she indicated that we were standing in it. It was alarming to me that this facility was so poorly staffed and run down.
I had a similar experience at other special needs schools I visited over the next few months. I decided that there was no way I’d dump my son somewhere. Autism special needs schools need to ensure that they have trained staff and adequate facilities to cater for the special needs requirements of the children. I did wonder how any parent could send their child to the special needs schools I had visited to determine the best placement for my son. I think parents become desperate and eventually succumb to the dismal options available to them.
Teachers who lack experience, knowledge and teaching skills can mislead parents into believing they should accept their ‘disabled’ child as sadly limited. I wasn’t going to accept that my child was destined to be dumped at some inadequate facility, forgotten and written off by the school system. The only thing I accepted was that I needed to work harder to find the right educational programme for my son. I was determined to ensure he’d be placed in professional hands an established in years to come my own solution for autism special needs schools.
Article written by Ilana Gerschlowitz
Author of “Saving My Sons – A Journey with Autism”