Schooling for kids on the spectrum in different countries

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bjcirceleb
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20 Jun 2011, 4:35 am

In regards to this article that has appeared in one of my states newspapers today, I am curious as to what is the case in other countries. I have done research on this in the past and will explain my understanding of it below.

http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/more-n ... 6077398320

In Australia it is a state based system and different states fund things and provide special schools and the like in different ways. In my state all children who are disabled are assessed under a scheme I do not think is perfect, but this is how it works. They attempt to assess the needs of a child and then they are ranked on a level and based on that level a certain amount of funding, anywhere from $7,000 per year to $55,000 per year is allocated to the child to support their additional needs. How that funding is spent is determined via the IEP process. Parents have to agree to it. ALL children have the legal right to attend their local school if that is their parents choice. All children also have the right to attend any other school that has vacencies. All schools have maximum levels of students they are not supposed to go over, but no child will be denied access to their local school, the government will put in tempory classrooms on ovals if need be. They would then reconsider the boundaries, as to who is gauranteed a place in that school and limit who could enroll in future years. Children can stay at a school once they are enrolled at the school. Children who have special educational needs like Autism have extra options. If the child has an intellectual disability the parents can choose to send them to a school for children with intellectual disabilities. There are two types, one for children with minor intellectual disabilities, an IQ between 50-70, and another for children with an IQ below 50. It is a parents choice. NO child is forced into a special school, the parents choose! There are also special Autism schools and any child who recieves funding for Autism is entitled to attend these schools. But these schools do not get massive amounts of funding. They get the standard student allowance all schools get and the individual childrens' disability funding. That means that children in the schools for the most profoundly disabled are usually in classes of 6 with a teacher and aide and those in other special schools can be in classes of 12 with a teacher and aide. We have schools for the Deaf, integration classes (a class for special needs children in a mainstream schools) for the Deaf and other disability groups, we have schools for those with physical and health conditions, those with behavoural problems, etc. Specail educational schools are special and are on the whole for a specific type of disability. Those for students with lower level IQ's often have multiple disabilities, but they speacilise in the moderate to profound intellectual disability. It is a parents choice, but a specail school is on the whole going to have teachers specialising in that particular condition.

By LAW all schools must support all children unless they can prove unjustifiable hardship. The average school cannot afford to give a child an aide if they are not funded and nor can they give a full time aide to a child who is not fully funded. But a good school will look at what are the child's worst times of day and subjects and provide support in those circumstances. NO school is perfect and nor is the system perfect, but parents have choice, including choice about how the funding is spent. They can choose for instance for the classroom teacher to go off and attend professional development training on their child's disability with the funding provided. They could choose to bring in Autism specialists to work with the child at school, or to advise the school, etc. Those with Asperger's would be incredibly unlikely to get any funding and hence rarely get any real special support.

We do have private schools that parents can pay for their child to attend, but there are NO special private schools, with the exception of those for children with learning difficulties, and they are minor ones, ie a year or two behind their peers. Government funding is only for government schools and private schools are ALL not for profit and most are run by churches and the like. Many private schools are quite elite and charge fees of up to $30,000 per year per child. The most elite private schools will do anything not to have a child with a disability in them, to the point I have heard of paying the parents to take the child elsewhere. Some very much have a not in my backyard syndrome. The lower cost private schools are generally quite good and do try to support children within the limits of the money they have.

My understanding of the UK in terms of children with disabilities, is that the local authority decides what to do and some will pay hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to send a child off to some specailist autism school if the parents fight hard enough, others go to court and the parent still has no choice and no power. I have also heard that parents are not able to choose to pay themselves if they were millionares and had the funding, to send their child to the special autism school of thier choice. I have also heard that if you move house, the old local authority you moved from is still responsible for funding the child, so you can't just get up and move, not that that is always an option anyway.

My understanding of the US is that all children MUST be educated in the least restrictive environment and the school district determines what that is. They can force a child into a mainstream class with an aide or put them into a specail needs class at the school, that could have any number of different disabilities present. Parents can beg and plead for a specail school of their choice to be paid for, but it is not likely the school district would pay for it or be forced to pay for it in court. BUT my understanding is that parents who have the money can choose to pay for places in these schools, often I have heard at a cost of in excess $100,000 per year.

There are cases in the media here, where parents with Dual UK/Australian Citizenship have chosen to return to the UK to get the specailist education they choose. But I do know they go over there alone, visit the schools and are given advice about which local authorities to move into!! I should say that I also recently met a mother who has moved in down the road here from me with a child with a profound intellectual disabilty who moved to Australia to access our special schools from the UK as her now 10 old son, was simply being sat in a corner and not given any work, therapy or the like at all, and no amount of fighting, legal action or the like had changed that!!

I strongly suspect the parent of the child in this case has the ability to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for the specialised Autism school that they want to use, and it is not something that 99.99% of parents with children with severe autism could access, but I am curious from those who live there.

No system, no country is perfect, all system have good and bad points and no government is ever going to have unlimited funding. Some children will always do well in one system and others in another.

Having said that, my understanding is the parents are very unlikely to get any real money from the government. The courts here do not award any real money and it is more about making sure the child's basic needs are met. They could find the child should have been asessed at a higher level of funding, but they will not get millions of dollars in settlement from it. But I could be wrong. I only know what has happened in the past and what disability lawyers have said to me.



squirrelflight-77
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20 Jun 2011, 7:37 am

I'm in the US and it varies from state to state. Where I am the local school does not have 'special ed' classes at all. ALL children are mainstreamed with aides.

I personally think that is just horrible. I have seen children with extreme sensory issues just continually struggle with the noise and chaos of 30 children in one room. And on the other side you have children who continually deal with disruptions from out of control children. I think that while certainly some autistic children can mainstream with support, there are children who simply cannot. This creates a real nightmare for the child and the teacher and really adds to a lot classroom problems that effect everyone's ability to learn. After a few years and a lot of hoops you can transfer to another school in the area that does have special ed but that is a process.


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bjcirceleb
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21 Jun 2011, 12:58 am

I could not agree more. This is what I do like about our system that parents have the choice. THey know their child best and they know what they need. I don't think any parent wants their child to be locked away from the real world, but if they cannot learn in the mainstream then why traumatise them. I do know parents of children here who have started off specail and then moved to mainstream when the child was ready. I also know a parent at the moment who has the child one day in mainstream, so he does have some contact with "normal developing peers" and the other four days in autism specific so he can get the education that he needs. There is no point in simply forcing a child into something and not allowing them to learn while they are there. It also creates the situation where the other kids think all children with disabilities are horrible as they cannot stand this one who cannot cope in that environment. Provide them with positive disabled role models and they will begin to respect them.

My understanding of the US is that federal law requires them to be in the "least restrictive environment" but that is going to be interpreted by different states and districts in different ways!! There are many mainstream schools here that will not make an effort to include a child because they do not need to, they are not forced to, as if they just do the basics they have followed the law and if the parent wants more they can go elsewhere. You are dammed if you do and dammed if you don't!!



Sahmiam
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21 Jun 2011, 3:46 am

As a parent here in the US, you have the right to ask for an "appropriate" education, not necessarily the best one. We recently found out that that notion can vary from district to district. Out last one was highly inclusive. If there were no extreme academic or behavioral issues, the child would automatically be mainstreamed. In our new district, any child with an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) automatically has a seat in the Resource Room, whether you want it or not. I like the idea of having an optional-inclusion situation and sometimes that can be doen by having "quiet time" written into the IEP, so the child can leave the room to regroup in a safe place, if necessary.

I have found that speaking to the office staff, principal, teachers, paraeducators, and psychologists as soon as possible in a face-to-face meeting is a great way to let them know what your expectations are. I routinely introduce myself as "one of those obnoxious, over-protective, demanding parents," and I have never been met with anything negative. It seems like public schools here appreciate parents who care how the kids are doing and are willing to do whatever they have to do to make sure the child has a positive school experience.



liloleme
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21 Jun 2011, 6:56 am

I am from the US but now live in France so I can give you the differences between the two. Im thankful we lived in the US when my autie was diagnosed because they have no early intervention services here in France and we feel that it was the EI services that helped my daughter so much. My daughter was placed into a specialized public school at age 3 (this is California btw and as another mentioned it really depends on the state you live in). She was in an Autism program which used the TEACCH method. If we would have stayed she would have been put in a typical public school with no aide as they deemed her high functioning even though she still has severe sensory issues and communication problems. It is very hard to get an aide in the US for your kids unless they are very severe. France tends to be more academic minded than the US. My son (aspergers and will be 9 next month, also fluent in French as we sent him to a french immersion school in the US) got an aide when he started in school but they have found that he has some Learning Disabilities so next year he will be going to a specialized school so he can try to catch up (he has dyslexia and still can not read). My daughter (classic autism now 6) also has an aide who speaks some English as my daughter just learned to speak English when she was 4 and, as I said, still has issues and is now expected to speak French. She is however at the top of her class academically so they will keep her in the public school but still with her full time aide. Here in France the severe autistic children are put in a specialized school and I do not believe that the parents get the choice if they are too difficult to manage. However we do have the choice to send our son to the specialized school and we did decide to do that. They do try to mainstream kids here just like in the US but have more assistance. They also have special classes for children with handicaps in the typical public schools just like the US.
Im not as impressed with the therapy here as I was in the US but we are pretty pushy so we are finding more assistance than we had when first moving here. Im am still very thankful for the aids but my sons aide knows nothing about Aspergers, we tried to teach her a bit but she doesnt seem interested where as my daughters aide has taken classes on Autism and will take more this summer.
I do know that just a few years ago France had a terrible system for autistic children and they are still cleaning that up. There was a shocking documentary released a few years ago called "My Name is Sabine" and they made a lot of changes to the system since then but they were, and Im afraid some places may still be, living in the dark ages.