Friday, July 6, 2012

Benefits of Small Class Size for Students With Disabilities

One of the students referred to us spent a whole year sitting and staring before he was even referred. Another used to scream at a high pitch for hours before he was referred. Still another used to run around the room an not focus on anything. Another used to beat up his mother and get away with it before he was referred. Because we had a small classroom size and support we were able to deal with the behavioral challenges these children have with learning. It is extremely important to have a child's attention and focus to learn. Also, distractions should be kept to a minimum. This simply does not happen in the average American classroom, which is busy, noisy, bright and overwhelming to a lot of children with learning challenges.
The importance of relationship building for children with autism can not be overstressed. Social skills building needs to be a priority and children need much help in learning proper social skills and behavior. Because the behavior is challenging and difficult and learning and change does not happen rapidly, teachers without the understanding, experience and training just often give up. Believing the child can learn and will learn if one is persistent and does not give up is a necessity. The individual child has to be a priority. This simply does not happen in the mass production concept of American education.
Another difficulty in American education is that children with the same problems are dumped together but not given anymore help than if they were in the average American classroom. Thus, inappropriate behaviors are reinforced by children seeing other inappropriate behaviors. The Lord of the Flies concept happens with children leading the classroom rather than a strong adult leader. This is not a teacher's fault. If a teacher has to spend all of their day correcting behavior, it leads to very little time for learning. That is why I am against classroom sizes of fifteen to twenty for children with autism. Even eight students is too many. I as a teacher have had my greatest success with children with autism in a classroom with no more than four students and one aide.
As you can imagine, education can get very expensive when one does the right thing by a child. I have not even included the therapy and other services that autistic children can benefit from. Moreover, the special schools that autistic children need are often denied as school districts often refuse to pay for the private non-public schools that autistic children benefit most from. Thus, policy has to change and doors have to be opened for parents to be able to pick what works best for their child. Small class size is a start. And parents being allowed to pick non-public schools that work well is also a great start.
Give children a chance to learn and enroll them in a school that insists on a small student to teacher ratio.
The way you learned is not the way your child with autism will learn. They will be lost in the shuffle in most classrooms and then be blamed for not learning or their behavior. I have seen what children can accomplish when given what they need and I hope you will veto the mass education high number classroom that is usually the American way.
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