Junior cycle curriculum and autism
24-02-2022 10:47pmRegistered Users Posts: 2 ✭Join Date:Posts: 1
Hello. I am hoping to start a discussion and ultimately hear the experience and opinions of others who have autistic children in secondary school. Apologies in advance for the essay. I would really appreciate any feedback.
My current situation is that I have three autistic children, the eldest(boy) in second year, middle(girl) transitioning to secondary in Sept and the youngest(girl) in junior infants. My main concern at the moment is the junior cycle curriculum and how their seems to be little understanding of the characteristics of autism or the learning styles of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders making it not fully accessible. My son is a student in an ASD unit attached to a mainstream school. He attends mainstream classes and certain periods throughout the day in the ASD unit. He was nonverbal until age 6 and struggled to settle but he has always accessed the mainstream curriculum with a high level of support. This year we began to run in to some big issues, he is struggling in the mainstream setting and started to display behaviours we had not seen since he was a young child. As I began to get to the bottom of what was going on I came to the realisation that the issues were largely down to a lack of knowledge among the mainstream teachers(something that I am used to at this stage), our son was being completely misunderstood, and his attempts to self regulate were being interpreted incorrectly. As well as this it came to light that there are sections of the curriculum that are just not structured for autistic children who have difficulties in areas like theory of mind.
As we discussed the issues we were facing we had to look at what options were open to our son in order for him to continue his education in the mainstream setting. A lot of resource hours were being dedicated solely to help him just be in school and manage through the day, let alone his actual mainstream classes, and this was not feasible long term. I was desperately worried that his school placement was in danger. That was until I spoke with a SENO who informed me that my sons current placement is the only one suitable for him, so that leaves us where we are. Then, looking at the Junior cycle, because he does not have a specific learning disability he does not meet the criteria for the Level 2 programme. That leaves us right where we are, trying to manage, accessing classes and a curriculum that in no way takes into account the needs of my son.
If I were to give one example from the curriculum it would be the English syllabus, in particular poetry. You have a child who has Alexithymia (difficulty identifying and expressing emotions) and impairments in Theory of Mind (the capacity to understand or take in to account another individual's mental state), how can they read a poem and then put themselves in the position of the poet, describe the feelings being conveyed in the poem? You have a child who has superior memory capabilities and is a very visual learner, expected to learn passages and quotes from novels and shakespeare that are read from books by themselves or aloud by teacher or peers.
So my question is this. What can be done to make the curriculum at post primary level accessible to children like mine and other children who have the intellectual ability to access the Level 3 programme but due to characteristic of autism they find it difficult to reach their full potential in a mainstream class/state exam. There is no alternative for this cohort of children and unfortunately I will be in the same position with both my daughters. As it stands these children must just carry on in a system that is ultimately unfair to them.0
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My son is going to be starting secondary school in September. Thanks for sharing your experience because I have been wondering what to expect when he moves on the secondary school.
He has to pick his optional subjects soon so I am busy trying to figure out what choices will suit him best.0
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I hope the transition to Secondary school went well for your son.0
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In answer to your last paragraph I often feel the only way for non autistic people to understand how best to support autistic people is to have autistic people heavily involved in the approach. There are so many "experts" who advise but in reality nobody really knows without having real life experience of the challenges. Ideally having someone who understands the requirements within the education system for the student to succeed and also understand the challenges of the student involved would be the perfect solution. I just don't know if that can exist.
I follow quite a few feeds on social media of adult autistic people and am often blown away by what is said there. It has often made me look very differently at what I've been told by the "experts" and the reality for the person. I'm not completely dismissing the advice given by some as it will sometimes come from a well intentioned place but I have often done a complete Uturn on my approach with my child having taken into account the real life experiences of those with similar struggles.0