Aba reaches the parts, that other therapies cannot reach.
An update for the week that is in it. Because in Ireland this week the Government party backbenchers are meeting to ask the Minister for Education to reconsider her "blockage" and ongoing animosity towards pure science and evidence based, full time ABA for children with a psychological assessment that recommends it.
But this week I want to draw your attention to a group of parents that have been forgotten in the debate for comprehensive ABA. The parents whose children don't need it.
They might also have a child that is perfectly capable of learning in a small group. A child that is motivated by praise and a willingness to fit in and a child that understands the national curriculum as it is taught by State recognised teachers.
They will be toilet trained, will be able to eat different foods with a spoon at least, maybe even a fork, will brush their teeth willingly after meals and dress themselves without fuss.
They can probably look at you when you approach them and at least return a greeting if not ask a question about you.
And they deserve our consideration in this discussion because in the current set up, their needs are not being met either.
When a child has a psychological assessment recommending that they be placed in a small class with other children of a similar ability, preferably attached to a mainstream school where they can begin to be included in activities with typically developing peers, they should get that option. The child, parent and the teacher should also get access to comprehensive clinical support As and When required, such as Speech and Language, Occupational and Behavioural Support; and the parent should be eligible for courses and training. That to me would be the best possible foundation for this child to overcome their challenges and eventually be included in the mainstream education system on their terms.
Sadly at the moment this is not the case.
Sadly when the Minister for Education says that this far and no further with regard to comprehensive ABA education for children who need it, she is affecting the effectiveness of the small classes attached to a national school.
I am talking about the very young kids with "higher functioning autism". They may have received early intervention in an ABA pre-school, they may have an older sibling who has taught them sociability, clever parents who are coping much better with the courses they have done, they may very verbal "auditory" learner (kids who can easily recite what they hear)
Even my postman would be able to tell you that these kids will do well in an outreach classes with 6 pupils to one teacher attached to a National school.
Some of these parents will be researching their options for the new school year commencing September '08.
And I want to tell them that Outreach, with all the above services is the best possible option, and in some units it is. But while there are kids like mine, who do need 100% full time comprehensive ABA being placed in the 6-1 units, this will not always be the case.
Because for every 6 kids with Autism in a special unit, perhaps 3 will have higher needs and challenging behaviours.
Placed with Tutors and supervisors with third level degrees in Psychology and Masters in Behavioural Analysis, these kids can over come these challenges and begin to learn at much the same pace as their higher functioning peers. Placed with teachers with limited training and limited support, and no ongoing consultancy or supervision or trained assistance, They Won't.
Instead in every class of 6 kids you will have at least 3 who are popping and rocking and disrupting and not progressing. They will take up all the energy of the teacher and assistants in managing their behaviours. And the 3 kids who could learn in a small group, who could benefit from contact with their peers, who could develop social and life skills and follow the national curriculum with their teacher, will suffer.
It is not fair to them or their parents. Every child deserves the chance to make the most of their education, and the kids who get an assessment recommending that they be in a small class with the chance to socialise with "their peers" have as much right as those kids who need a more intense intervention.
Don't let these kids and their parents down by trying to mush everyone together with a bit of this and a bit of that. Give each child a chance to realise their full potential.