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In the News: Do Kids with Autism Fare Better in Integrated or Specialized Schools?


The federal law that governs special education lays out the goals pretty clearly: Students are entitled to an appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment.

But some parents of children with autism feel their local public schools aren’t meeting their kids’ needs. And with autism diagnoses rising, new schools are emerging specifically for autistic children.

Some parents see these specialized schools as a godsend. For others, they raise a new set of questions.

Carson Ellis’ son, Hank, is autistic. He spent kindergarten in a special education classroom at his local public school in Portland, Ore. But Ellis says that while school administrators said it was inclusive, she found the special education classroom was quite segregated.

“We went on a field trip, and there were name tags for all the kids, but no name tags for the special ed kids,” Ellis remembers. “And another time we went to some kind of art studio, and they had art supply packets, but they had forgotten to get enough for the special ed kids. So it was stuff like that.”

Ellis says the teacher herself was very kind and caring, but that given the school’s overall attitude and resources, Hank wasn’t really a part of things. And when it came to an appropriate curriculum? Ellis says that at the age of 5, her son was reading at an eighth-grade level.

“He got his ‘talented and gifted’ designation, and I was like, ‘OK! Sign me up for the awesome advanced reading group,’ ” Ellis says. “And they were like, ‘That doesn’t exist.’ “

Read the Rest of this Article on NPR

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