What is the goal of secondary school for students with autism spectrum disorders? Why do schools need a philosophical framework that guides the preparation of students for further education or leads to meaningful employment?
To examine these questions, let’s consider the case of Cameron – which is fictional – but all too common.
Cameron is 17 years old and has attended mostly inclusive classes in his local school district since kindergarten. In addition to his general education classes, he participates in special classes for Math and Language Arts where he learns functional academic skills. Cameron plans to graduate from his high school at 21. This June the students with whom Cameron has attended school since he was 5 years old will be graduating. Only Cameron’s special education friends will remain in classes with him. Next year when he attends inclusive classes, his classmates will be younger than he is. Other than students with disabilities, Cameron will not be attending class with his chronologically same-age peers. Is this really inclusion?
Eventually, Cameron would like to have a job and live in an apartment. He and his parents are concerned that as he’s nearing 21, Cameron needs to explore more vocational options. Overall, Cameron’s school district has met his academic needs, provided extra-curricular opportunities, and created school-wide instructional and behavioral supports that have enabled him to enjoy his high school years. Yet, he is now at a point when his peers will leave him behind. He has not received vocational education. He has no idea what kind of job he would like to have when he leaves school, and he does not know how to make choices or self-advocate.
Cameron’s teachers have followed standard special education protocol and have provided appropriate school-based services. He has received a traditional special education using evidence-based instructional strategies. Overall, they have delivered a positive high school experience. However, there are critical components of his education that have yet to be addressed.
This vignette shows that educating secondary school students with autism is a multi-faceted, multi-dimensional, and complex process. It is insufficient to follow one protocol for everyone. Each student’s interests, preferences, strengths, characteristics, and challenges must be considered. Teachers need to address each student individually and holistically. They need to consider the student’s history and the student’s future in planning longitudinally for life-long independence.
Sound Philosophical Framework for Educating Students with Autism
At Shrub Oak International School, we’ve developed a sound philosophical framework for educating students with autism at the adolescent and young adult levels. We are committed to this framework to ensure that when students graduate, they are well-prepared and confident to go forward. Essential components of the Shrub Oak framework for educating secondary school-age students with autism include:
- Use of evidence-based and research-informed practices
- Data driven decision-making
- Transdisciplinary models
- Multi-tiered support systems to teach academic, communication, social, and life skills
- Universal Design for Learning (UDL)
- Longitudinal transition planning
We invite interested families to come and meet us, and to learn about how we prepare our students for successful independent adult lives. Speak to the expert team members who have designed our evidence-based and innovative programs.
See possibilities become reality.