Integrating autistic students into the classroom

Integrating autistic students into the classroom

Integrating autistic students into the classroom

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by SHELLY SLATER

Bio | Email | Follow: @wfaashelly

WFAA

Posted on May 16, 2012 at 6:00 PM

Updated Wednesday, May 16 at 10:18 PM

Jacob Mendel is 11-years-old and in constant motion.

Jacob also has autism and just wants to fit in.
 
“He'll say mom I know I'm different and it breaks my heart,” said Amy Mendel, mom.
 
His mom moved him from one Frisco school to the next looking for a better fit for his disorder.
 
“Everything that has ever been wrong with him, we've been able to fix, with surgery or a pill, but autism I can't, it's never going to go away,” she said. “Some days I get so angry, so angry. But then he makes me laugh.”
 
“Knock knock,” said Jacob.
 
Jokes bring Amy back to a good place, as she works to secure a strong education for Jacob.
 
The Frisco school district said the number of students with autism is up 200 percent in the last 5 years.

More and more students like Jacob are being mainstreamed into the classroom.
 
“I hope other parents don't feel like the focus is on him, but I can't worry about what other parent's think,” Mendel said.
 
But the district does. It offers training to teachers, to understand the triggers that may send an autistic student into a fit.
 
“If it’s a general education parent calling to complain about something, I'm going to take the time to explain to them what is going on,” said Dr. Debbie Lair, with the Frisco Independent School District. “Also, I want to know that because I want to be proactive in the classroom.”
 
But the National Education Association said not all school districts are doing enough to prepare teachers for this new norm.
 
“If you've met one person with autism you've met one person with autism,” said Margaret Geiger, NEA.
 
Geiger said one training is not enough to understand one of the most complicated of disorders. It is a band aid to an ever growing problem.
 
“It is hard to mainstream them, because they don't know how to act in a general ed classroom,” Geiger said. “Teachers aren't knowledgeable of the disability.”
 
Mendel believes it is on a case by case basis, it depends on the school.

At Christie Elementary, Jacob found a good fit.
 
“Teachers aren't just putting him in a room when he as a fit, they work with him,” Mendel said.
 
For much of the day Jacob is in a general education classroom. But he gets pulled out for special attention on certain topics. If approved, next year he will be the first student in FISD to have a dog, help cue teachers as to when he is nearing a breakdown.
 
“He deserves the best education as much as any kid,” Mendel said.
 
“I don't want anybody to lose out on education, and I think we do a good job of that. We make sure everyone has the ability to learn from that teacher,” Dr. Lair said.
 
Many experts said if the autism statistics multiply as in years past, the face of learning, and the classroom, will require an even deeper understanding of students like Jacob.

E-mail sslater@wfaa.com

 

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