At the school where I work, we are seeing an increasing number of kids with special needs – kids with Aspergers in particular. The rate of autism diagnosis is increasing exponentially.
According to statistics on the Autism Society website:
- 1 percent of the population of children in the U.S. ages 3-17 have an autism spectrum disorder
- 1 to 1.5 million Americans live with an autism spectrum disorder
- Fastest-growing developmental disability; 1,148% growth rate
At that rate, we are going to continue to see kids entering our school and trying to cope in a “normal” private school environment. My son, now 16, was able to survive at the school through 5th grade but it got more and more difficult as he advanced. The issues were mostly social but he also had some academic issues. Like many kids with Aspergers, he had other learning challenges like memory issues and a disability in written communication. These challenges can be hard for a teacher to deal with in a classroom of 14, 18 or 25 kids, even if that teacher is a loving, gifted educator.
One reason we decided to homeschool was that most of the private schools in the area didn’t have resources to deal with Daniel’s needs and the one that did was extraordinarily expensive. Since Daniel was overwhelmed in a small classroom, we knew that the large class size in public school wouldn’t be a good fit for him. Our third option, homeschooling, meant that we would have to sacrifice some special services but we would be able to cater his learning to his learning styles and abilities.
I think any of the options would have pros and cons and each parent has to decide which is best at the time for his child. But I wonder how our culture will cope with the increasing educational and therapeutic needs of these kids. Can we have enough loving special educators or training for parents or services? What demands will this place on parents – both those who homeschool and those who don’t?
The statistics also said that 56% of kids on the autism spectrum will drop out of high school. I wonder if my son would be one of those kids – frustrated and depressed – if we had stayed in “regular” school.
Whether your community has lots of options for children with special needs or very few options, much prayer is a requirement for deciding what is best for your child. And, much prayer and thought will be a requirement for our society as we seek to address the needs of our children and our teachers. We want our kids to be loved, happy, and able to function at their maximum ability level – to the glory of God.