School Debate: Does ‘Inclusion’ for Asperger’s Kids Hurt Other Students?

An article in the Pensacola News Journal highlights a national debate facing schools:  how much can children with Asperger syndrome (an autism spectrum disorder, or ASD) be fully integrated into regular classrooms without making learning difficult for students without the disability?

Children with Asperger’s, as opposed to some other forms of ASD, are often quite intelligent and able to handle the schoolwork without incident.  But they do have behavioral problems, ranging from repetitive behaviors to problems socializing to sensitivity to things like noises or lights.  These issues can take up a lot of a teacher’s time, which heightens the debate.

The News Journal reports on how the issue is playing out in Florida:

Changes at the state level in how classes are categorized will put more special education students into more regular classrooms than ever before.

Many teachers and parents worry that all children — particularly students who just get by in their classes — may not get the attention they need in an inclusion classroom, because students with disabilities — students like [13-year-old] Dylan [Harris] — need extra attention.

“I think it’s a fair concern,” [Regina] Harris [Dylan's mother] said. “General (education) teachers typically aren’t trained very much to work with children with behavior issues. That’s opening a can of worms.”

Image: Students on a school bus, via Shutterstock.

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  1. by Jennifer

    On April 24, 2012 at 2:42 am

    Parents Magazine, you should be ashamed!

    First of all, the appropriate terminology is “Kids with Aspergers”. They are kids first, not a diagnosis first and should be treated that way. The article contains people-first language. Why not the headline too?

    Second, why no mention of the benefits of having students with a variety of needs in a single classroom? Fair is not equal. This is a lesson that should be taught early and often and what better place to teach compassion, tolerance, patience and appreciation, rather than destain, for differences than the classroom?

    And third, how about giving some credit to the special education teachers and instructional aides who are working hard every single day to provide the support that students with disabilities need to learn successfully in theIr LEAST restrictive educational environment. (I assume, that since the behavior of these students is so much of “a problem”, they have a right to an IEP and therefore appropriate support services – but I am not sure that it matters.) Least Restrictive Environment is part of the federal law to ensure that all students are educated in the environment that is most appropriate for them – not the environment that is most pleasing to the bigoted parent of the child sitting next to them.

    This article is titled “school debate” but it seems to me that Parents Magazine has already decided which side of the arguement to support….

  2. by Btyan

    On April 24, 2012 at 5:42 am

    The previous post leaves me with at least 2 questions.

    1. Does leaving certain kids with Aspergers in special education classes force them into a class that is not Least Restrictve?

    2. Can inclusion of a kid with Aspergers create an environment for other children that is more restrictive for them without said inclusion; especially considering already difficult student to teacher ratios?

    I don’t think this an either-or, black-v-white situation. I don’t think “Parents” deserves shame. At least not for what they said but the article could have gone farther to explain what other kids can gain from getting to know a kid with Aspergers.

  3. by JB

    On April 24, 2012 at 11:50 am

    I don’t want to get into a debate with previous posts, but I don’t think that Parent Magazine has made a decision to support. This short article explains questions raised in the current debate, and with the DSM-V due to come out, many parents, educators, and specialists are concerned about how it will effect the students with varying levels of abilities and disabilities. This DOES bring a good point about how it will effect the struggling General Education polpulation. Students who WERE eligible for SpEd services may NOT be eligible with the new criteria.

    What will happen in schools then?

  4. by Lindsay Bartleson

    On April 24, 2012 at 12:10 pm

    I am a mother to a highly intelligent child with Aspergers. The school has implied that he is one of the smartest kids in his grade level. My child is mainstreamed and while yes, at times he can take up extra attention so do some children in his class who need extra help or are poorly behaved. My opinions for my son are limited. I can put him in the Autism support room and give up on any sort of a real future for him, I can put him in a learning support classroom where he’d still be pulling attention from other children, or I can put him in a room with several disabled children where he’d get extra attention, but he wouldn’t have anyone to learn normal social skills from. I want my child to have the future he deserves so he will be mainstreamed. His classmates have learned tolerance and understanding. He’s well loved by his classmates and staff at his school. If he was that much of a trouble he wouldn’t be loved so much.

  5. by PhotoJoe

    On April 24, 2012 at 4:44 pm

    “General (education) teachers typically aren’t trained very much to work with children with behavior issues” — If that’s their big concern then make it a requirement to have more training to deal with the types of kids who will be in their classrooms.

    If a child needs more attention, ASD or not, and there isn’t enough teacher time to go around to help everyone then that’s a sign the teacher to student ratio is screwed up. This is an easy problem to fix; Throw some money at the problem and hire more teachers.

    Why all the drama people?

  6. by Miki

    On April 24, 2012 at 8:29 pm

    My daughter has aspergers and is mainstreamed. She actually requires less time than several other students who have no problems except that they are disruptive. Without having her in the regular class she would not be able to see other kids interacting and learn from them. I feel that having a diverse class will benefit everyone in there and teach life long lessons on how to get along with others that may be different than them.

  7. by Jodi W

    On April 25, 2012 at 5:13 am

    I’m a high school teacher who has taught a class with a student who had Asperger’s. There really wasn’t any difference between teaching this class or any other class I’ve had in the past. He took no more attention than any other students (especially students with behavioral problems). Granted, it may be different at the high school level than the elementary level, but I believe its important for both the student and his peers. He was able to learn how to socialize and work with others while his peers learned how to work with others with learning disabilities. Our world is full of all different kinds of people and we all need to learn how to get along!

  8. by Janine Morrison

    On April 26, 2012 at 4:53 pm

    All children are different and have different needs. These issues should be considered for each student not for an entire group of children. I am a first grade teacher and typically, ASD children have an aide placed with them in a mainstream classroom. If that is the case, then all special education students that are able to function in a regular classroom should be mainstreamed. If there is no additional adult support and only one teacher, that is a huge problem when special needs students are involved. It’s not a “time” issue (as in not enough time for me teachers to do everything); it’s an educational value issue (is everyone getting what they need).

  9. by Laura

    On April 26, 2012 at 7:22 pm

    I can see both sides to this issue. I not only have a 13 year old daughter with Aspergers, my 13 year old nephew also has Aspergers. Seeing as there are varying degrees of function within Aspergers itself, it can be said that it really depends on the individual student. Where my daughter can be mainstreamed all day, with no adult para, my nephew on the other hand needs far more support. Any child, Aspergers or not, can disrupt a classroom. For my daughter, if they made her be in the special education room, she would learn far less due to the varying disabilities of kids in that room. I think it is up to not only the parents of the child, but the teachers and support staff at school as to what is going to be best for all involved. If my daughter created so many disruptions, I could understand the need to remove her from a mainstream setting. You can not judge a child based on Aspergers diagnosis alone; you need to take the whole child into account before deciding what is the best place for them. I think that people don’t understand that Aspergers has such a wide range of functionality that they automatically think ANY Aspergers child will be disruptive. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Look at the child, not the diagnosis, and base your decision from there.

  10. by Laura

    On April 26, 2012 at 7:43 pm

    Also, in response to the first post. Nowhere in the article did Parents Magazine say they supported this. They are reporting a debate that was in a newspaper in Florida. Just like your TV news channel reports the news, so did this article. 2nd- in my opinion, making an issue out of whether it says “Asperger kids” or “kids with Aspergers” seems kind of petty. Are you going to tell me that saying “blond haired kid” or kid with blond hair” really makes a difference? I just asked my 13 yr old daughter (again, who has Aspergers) if she found the term Asperger kid offensive, and she said “offensive compared to what?” I explained, she laughed. Kids (any kid) need to learn not to take offense to every little thing such as you stated. That’s the problem today is that everybody takes offense at every little thing possible. In the grand scheme of life, saying Asperger kid, or kid with Aspergers is not going to be detrimental. Taking offense to such petty things only teaches your child to take offense at everything. I don’t believe anyone meant any harm by stating it the way they did. People need to learn to just let the small stuff roll of their back. It really is no big deal. Sorry, not meaning to sound pissy, but I don’t think that Parents Magazine should be getting blamed for an article they did not write, only reported. Time to put the big girl panties on and grow up a bit.

  11. by Cristal Martel

    On April 27, 2012 at 1:45 am

    Also, in response to the first post. Nowhere in the article did Parents Magazine say they supported this.

  12. by ListenLoveLearn

    On April 30, 2012 at 11:55 pm

    Inclusion is an interesting and complex issue worth further study. Who can be best mainstreamed and what is the affect for the child included as well as the children without issues.

  13. by Jenny williams

    On May 1, 2012 at 1:04 pm

    My 7 year old son has autism and is completely non verbal. He is in 1st grade this year. He actualy spends part of his day in his regular 1st grade class, whith an aide, part in his special education calss, part in specials with his 1st grade peers, and then his own extras, special phi ed, speech, and ot. They would never try to exclude him from his regular class. He needs the experience as do his classmates. My son has every right to an appropriate education he is going to get it. “regular” kids are not more important than my son just because he is different and needs extra support. With that said our school has always provided my son an aide, of course they have no choice, he needs one for support to be successful and safe.

  14. by Tyler

    On May 13, 2012 at 1:41 am

    Does inclusion for Jewish Kids hurt other students. I hear they are quite smart, but sarcastic, and pretty soon they will have swindled all the other kids out of their money. Ok I don’t really think that but I bet you wouldn’t run that article. A suppose a kid with Aspergers could have a “discipline problem”, so could a kid without Aspergers. I was never a disruption to my class, I added a lot to class discussions, I am an Aspie.

  15. by Kaeceleon

    On September 7, 2012 at 11:08 pm

    Ehh I agree with this to a point. I’m a high school student who has Asperger’s and is in an inclusive classroom (5th period Chorus, hehe) along with a girl who is severely autistic. I am very afraid of speaking out, I can do the work but I have an intense aversion of raising my hand and talking. Most kids know me as the shy one. However, the autistic girl is extremely distracting. She flails around, makes loud vocal noises, drools, and occasionally curls up into a ball while covering her ears and going “Uhhhhhhhhh!” She has two paraeducators who tail her and class basically stops when she melts down. Every. Day.

  16. by Kimberly

    On December 10, 2012 at 10:12 pm

    My son has Aspergers and is thirteen. I have two questions.

    One, Is it true that children who grow up with Aspergers have a “difficult” to “can not read social cues from others”.

    Two, Is it true that when a child with Aspergers is growing up he is embedded with information, which is hard to re-do.

    If what I wrote is true, as I have read. Then my example would be wrong.

    Is it right to place a child with Aspergers in a public school setting in the schools “smaller setting” program? This program consisting of say five other children whom clearly have “emotionally disabilities” that consist of hitting, violent outbursts, crying spats, abusive language and ill behaviors.

    My son has been in these least restricted placements since he was in first grade. He is embedded with such upsetting behaviors, everything is a mess.

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