Building Walls

This isn’t a post about constructing barriers. Instead, it’s about the constraints that the physical walls of the school buildings place on our children’s educational programs.

The change in placement that my son is going through includes a move to a new school. He needs to leave behind a lot of relationships and start over with both staff and peers. He will also need to change schools again next fall as he moves to middle school. By the time he starts sixth grade, he’ll have changed schools 5 times since kindergarten. A typical child will make only one change during this time.

Our school district is fairly large and a lot of resources are available. However, at the elementary school level, the staff with the strongest skills and experience with autism are concentrated in a single school (out of a 10 elementary schools). We’ve been able to tap into the district resources on a consulting basis, but it’s now necessary to move the child to where the adults are.

I’d love to see more outreach from this cluster of expertise into the other schools. I know other parents who have children on the spectrum and their children’s programs are limited based on the experience of the school team. It seems like such a waste to see staff struggle with how to put a program in place for a child and know that there are experienced resources just a few miles away that could help.

I know this issue is not unique to our district and that most districts also focus their autism resources into a single school. There are many benefits to this arrangement but it’s also time for districts to get a little more creative. The districts need to provide more effective programs for children throughout the school system.

In my line of work, we use a lot of very common technical tools to build teams that cross very large geographic barriers. We also hop in our car and drive when we need to work with people locally. I know the school systems are also capable of implementing district wide programs when it is necessary. It’s time to do so.

We have too many tools, too many experienced people, and too many children with autism to let something as minor as the walls of the school building stop us from reaching out.

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