Monday, January 4, 2010

Special Education and Homeschooling

Dr. Nestor Lopez-Duran has been writing quite a bit about autism, and his child psychology blog is linked to in the right hand column. In his latest post, he talks about autism and homeschooling.
Regarding Research in General:
Fortunately, most research on autism is not conducted via the school systems. Most research is conducted at medical and university centers with families recruited from the community. In my neuropsychology assessment experience, I would say that at least 30% of the ASD kids we see are home schooled, and many of these children are active participants in our research programs.
(Emphases added. ASD=Autism Spectrum Disorder.)
I have to admit that I was a little shocked to read the number 30%, even though my experience with homeschoolers has been that one (only one!) reason families choose to home school is that they don't feel a public school is giving them good special education services (and that is true for all kinds of special education issues, not just autism). I also know some families that have moved in order to be in a school district that is more friendly to special education needs.

All of this is worth paying attention to, as the vast majority of special education costs are not borne by local school districts (they get reimbursed), and obviously--in this economic climate--schools want to retain students.


  1. One type of special needs education that is not reimbursed is gifted programs. (Correct me if I'm wrong, I'd love to hear otherwise!) I believe that MI is one of the few states that doesn't provide for this kind of special--as in different than the norm--need. Maybe that is why there aren't programs in grade school.

    I know this probably isn't the kind of thing you were talking about...but they say to keep in mind that a child with an IQ of 140 is as much different from average as a child with an IQ of 60. The point is, many parents of such children, myself included, are definitely leaving the district because they feel their own version of special ed needs aren't being met. I know, I know, it's hard to feel sympathy for this situation. You can't compare the difficulties of having a child with autism or down syndrom to gifted ed issues, but when it's your kid's mental, social, and emotional well-being at stake, it's very real to you.

    The point is, the families leave, and it's not at the highschool level. AA highschools are reportedly fantastic. They leave in primary school. To the tune of a good 250 kids at Emerson and Summers Knoll. That's alot of years of funding! - OWS parent

  2. Anon, I believe that you are correct that gifted education is not reimbursed. I had not heard it was reimbursed anywhere, at least not as special education.

    It's true, that is not what I was talking about, although being bored in school is one reason that kids do poorly. (I believe that Albert Einstein did very poorly in school.)

    I myself am not a big fan of gifted education because tracking tends to help gifted kids at the expense of kids who are not tagged as gifted, and in fact--in many places--you are much more likely to be identified as "gifted" if you are middle or upper class and white or (in some places) Asian.

    Your point,though,is well taken--people do see Emerson and Summers-Knoll and Greenhill as "niche" schools for gifted kids (and Emerson markets itself that way). And I expect that the reason more of these kids leave at the elementary school level is that there are more options at the elementary school level, and not as many at the high school level. Thanks for writing!

  3. AAPS elementary schools aren't always that good with kids out of the box, staffing issues, long history of neglect of special education professional developement in the district, the cultural/race issues, often not spoken of, and finally, just big busy bureaucratic schools aren't so great for kids who need the extra touch.
    But if a kid can get past that, (!)there are some good options in middle school.Tappan, while a bit overgrown, is filled with good, engaged teachers, and I hear good things about Slauson, but there seems to be some trouble at the other middle schools.
    ASD kids need much more support before the schools can manage them effectively, and that will be happening, because keeping them home is a significant burden on the family. At the very least, funding that the school would have gotten to manage that child should be going to the parents of that child to help pay for the right care and management, instead of the parent going it alone, and still paying taxes to a school system that has deliberately chosen to fail them.
    And yes I say deliberately, because it's a lot of work to take care of these kids, and the district and many, many other districts in the country are just not putting in the effort required to manage this effectively.