Ask the Savvy Parent – Autism

autism_pic__alwaysDear Savvy Parent

I was encouraged by your reply about aggression in kids and dealing with it. I faced the same problem with my younger child who is now seven and has mild autism. He used to be aggressive as he had poor language skills and could not express himself well and did not understand what the other kids were doing and possibly felt anger that the other kids got so much attention because of their better skills. After 4 years of trying out positive behaviour techniques as mentioned by you and speech therapy, I notice a lot of change. Presently, he can play with peers for about 15-20 minutes without getting agitated or aggressive. His tolerance and respect for other kids has increased tremendously though we continue to try to increase his language and social skills.

I wish to know whether I should prefer to send my child to a special needs classroom with 7 other special needs kids or prefer to send him to the routine school and class with 20 other kids with teaching assistant supporting him. Do kids with special needs feel better around kids who have similar challenges as them? Thanks a lot.

Dear Parent,

I’m so glad to hear that the positive techniques you have been using with your son are helping. Having worked with many young kids with autism I can empathize and know how challenging and exhausting it can be. I commend you on your patience and hard work.

As you are probably well aware, children with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) need lots of repetition and patience and one needs to find ways to help them deal with their social challenges. It’s so great to hear that your son is able to play with his peers for a period of time without getting agitated and aggressive. Keep up the good work!

As far as the school setting, you know your son best, so only you and your husband can ultimately make that decision for your son. Whether a special needs child should be mainstreamed in an inclusive classroom often depends on the severity. In my experience, special needs children tend to do better in an inclusive environment. Those children on the spectrum can benefit tremendously as much of their challenges are social. Not only is it helpful for the child but the classmates also learn how to interact and deal with children with special needs so that the child can feel welcome. However, it works well ONLY if the right resources are there to support your son.

There are, however, a few potential drawbacks to inclusion. Besides the school not being about to provide the necessary support and resources for a child, children who have ASD in a typical classroom may suffer from bullying and teasing.

It is for this reason that it is very important that the school is on board and that you have an IEP in place so that your child can be assisted in the best way possible. If you haven’t already, you should meet with the school. Some of the things you may want to discuss would be, Is it a 1:1 aide or the aide is for the entire classroom? Will there be an adapted curriculum in place (if this is a need for your son)? Will he need a special social group or a peer buddy to help him assimilate better? Make sure the school and classroom teacher is on board and that you as parents and the school are working together to help your son.

The only time I would advise a parent to go against inclusion would be if the needs of the child are not being met or the child’s needs are unique and severe.

Insha’Allah hope this helps and may Allah (swt) guide you to what is best for your son.

Happy Parenting!

The Savvy Parent