I really don’t like being told no. I mean nobody does, but I really really hate it. It makes me want whatever I’m requesting even more!
Can I eat all my trick or treat candy? No. Oh yeah? Well I’m going to eat as much Halloween candy as possible before I even get home!
Can I go on that spring break trip to Mexico? No. Well fine! I’m just going to Havasu instead!
Can I finish my finals and term papers for my masters while on bed-rest at 8 mos pregnant? No. Wanna bet? Just watch me! Done!
So when I spoke to someone today about moving Connor from his special education preschool into a mainstream preschool just two days a week next fall, I didn’t like hearing them say no. It mad me mad. I mean it mad me really really mad. Like I wanted to pull all the research out of my pocket and show them how great mainstream education is for high functioning autistic children. (I didn’t actually have it in my pocket so that’s kinda why I’m blogging at 11 pm on a Monday. I’m writing, taking notes, and researching. And I’m really good at research, like it’s kinda my superpower. I now have enough sources to write an academic paper on the subject. Booyah.)
Telling me that my son can’t do something, telling me that he is limited, that he may get lost in that setting, pushed all the wrong buttons.
Sure Connor isn’t ready at this very moment to be in a mainstream preschool class. The biggest obstacle is his speech delay. In the past six months we have seen Connor’s speech improve tremendously, breathtakingly! But he’s still not at a level of typical development for a three-year old. And that’s ok. It’s a process that may take years to fully catch him up. I’m willing to wait.
What I’m not willing to do is sit on the sidelines to wait. I’m going to push him. I’m going to put Connor into environments that drive him to increase his communication. Existing solely in a world of special education, Connor is never going to be pushed to exceed those around him. He will not be asked to stretch beyond the goals set forth for him that year by adults. And as much effect as adult interactions can have, kids want to interact with kids. Playing and talking and having fun with another child can be the greatest motivator to grow.
A recent study in particular (in Norway) found that children with autism who interacted with their typical developing peers in a mainstream preschool setting saw a significant increase in their IQ over two years. A second study published by Autism in 2011 found that 31 % of the autistic students observed, who interacted with their typical developing peers, saw such a significant increase after just 8 months as to qualify them as typical developing.
These studies with these types of returns convince me even more that Connor needs to be pushed into a classroom with typical developing peers. Maybe not now, maybe not tomorrow, but soon. He may not see the same significant increases in IQ or developmental abilities, but I think any increase is worth the risk.
And I’m not taking no for an answer.