I would like to discuss kids with high functioning autism and how public schools are missing the mark. I have a 10 year old son who has been diagnosed with ADHD, high functioning Autism (Aspergers), Anxiety, ODD and depression. So, he started public school in kindergarten when he was 6. That school year there were really no issues. He was medicated, so everything went textbook at school. We loved his teacher, she was great and had taught our older daughter just two years prior.
First grade approaches and this same teacher stated that she was moving up to first grade and had the opportunity to move 5 kids with her and wanted our son to be one of those 5! Again, awesome, we love her, this is stability for him as he was already struggling with thinking he wasn't going to have her in first grade and was so sad that he would miss her. Well first grade is when things started to change. You can look up executive function and if you have a child such as mine, I suggest you do. Most kids all start out with the same executive function so to speak where you can't really tell the difference in their maturity levels. Its not until about first grade where you really start to notice that some kids are maturing at a different level than others. Kids who have ADHD often lag in executive function. So for example at age 5 they act like other 5 year olds, but at age 6 they still act like a 5 year old while others are acting like 6 or 7 year olds. At 7 they still act like a 5 year old while you guessed it, their peers are starting to act like 7-8 year olds. This gap continues to increase as our children age.
Our son began having some real anxiety issues in the first grade. He has always been so afraid of being left some place or not being able to find us out in public. This has never happened, so no real reason for him to have this fear but for him it is really real. As his anxieties started to increase so did the lack of assistance from his school. At first they were good and were helping ease his worries, but then they just didn't have the time to deal with him one on one when they had an entire class of other students (around 24-25 per class at that a point). I understood that, but how about offering some other kinds of help for him or give him an IEP (individualized education plan). The school stated to us that as long as they could handle him in the classroom and his grades weren't suffering they didn't see a need for an IEP. They also stated they were only obligated by state guidelines to provide the "minimum standards set by the state" and at this point they felt like that was working for our son and that he needed to just suck it up.
I have talked with other parents who are in the same boat as we have been. This is of course my own opinion, but I feel like schools need to try to do more for kids who fall into this category. If your child is a neurotypical child no problem, they remain in the regular mainstream classroom. If your child has severe special needs or disability no problem they go in the special needs classroom. BUT, what about our kids who are in between these two groups? Where do they go? Where do they fit in? We all know that ADHD and Autism is diagnosed more and more every day and the numbers are continuing to climb. I can't speak for all school districts but the one we live in currently is failing at this miserably. There needs to be a call for change, otherwise our neurdivergent kids are not getting what they need in terms of education. For our son, academics are not an issue, he is super smart. However, given his other issues he is distracted and anxious all day so his learning is being stunted.
Let's start discussions about these issues and come together to support one another. Check facebook for local parent groups in your area. These pages and sites can be valuable resources for you. I don't know the answer to this problem, but educating our schools would be a start. Teachers already have it so hard today and I do feel for them and can say I could never be a teacher, so hats off to those who do. Our teachers are overwhelmed and underpaid. Our school administrators and state educator boards need to be the ones to start this change and implement changes within the school structure to take care of our child and truly leave no child behind.