As I’ve noted before, I often feel like I’m conducting experiments in how I raise my child. Connor is not typical, nor is there any clear way to treat autism. Thus much of how I parent is based on trial and error, collecting data, and performing experiments.
The new experiment for this summer is trying out a typical preschool.
Observation: Connor has entered a stage in his development in which he is mimicking classmates and other children he comes into contact with.
Problem: Given that Connor spends the majority of his time with other special needs children, he has begun to mimic symptoms and problematic behaviors of these other children. His language also stopped developing, keeping it on par with classmates. Connor has displayed frustration and displeasure in attending his regular special day class.
Hypothesis: Being around neurotypical children will encourage Connor to use more language and develop typical social skills, while reducing problematic behaviors.
Proposed Method of Research: Connor will attend a typical preschool, with a developmental program, two days per week. Connor will also engage in extra curricular activities with typical peers, such as swimming lessons, play dates, and unstructured social environments (ie playing with unknown children at parks, beaches, etc.). Connor will continue to attend special day class two days per week, as well as participate in a reduced ABA schedule, regular speech therapy, therapeutic horseback riding, and physical therapy/gymnastics.
Obviously when I was mulling over the problems and possible solutions in my head, my reasoning was not so clear and scientific. In fact, I distinctly remember telling Connor’s psychologist that a large part of why I wanted to conduct this experiment during the summer was that I had “a gut feeling” that this was the right thing to do for him. I’m hoping the science will back me up!
For the most part, at least in the most current research, the benefits of inclusion seem to outweigh the possible problems, but there are still causes for concern, still reasons to worry. The recent research encourages me that this is right move for Connor, who is on the high functioning end of the spectrum. And so far, Connor seems to be loving his new school! In class he isn’t speaking to much, and he has had a few frustrations, but at home I can already see some positive effects. Just in the week since he’s started, Connor is using full sentences and spontaneous language more often than before.
Now maybe this is just a conincidence, and maybe it’s not. Only time will tell.
Here are some articles on the benefits of inclusion:
Why Inclusion Benefits all Kids:
Benefits of Inclusion:
Maryland Department of Education list of Inclusion Benefits: