The Autism Society Philippines (ASP) is a national, non-profit organization dedicated to the well-being of persons with autism spectrum disorder. The ASP has been in the forefront of providing services and training to families living with autism.

31 May 2011

"Shopping" for a special school?

By: Dang U. Koe, ASP Chair Emeritus



Our expert shares tips on how to look for regular schools that offer SpEd



MANILA, Philippines — Swimming lessons, art classes, cooking classes and all sorts of summer activities will be over by next week. It will be back to school once again. By this time, parents are done scouting schools for their children. Some will stay in their comfort zone by sticking with their old schools; while some would bravely scout for new schools that they think would best address their kids’ needs.


In a previous Angels Talk years ago, several mothers gave tips on how to select a good special school for their children with autism (CWA). Our Angel Talker this week is a teacher who shares tips on how to shop for regular schools that offer special education (SpEd) programs.


Kismette J. Cepe is a faculty of De La Salle Health Sciences Institute. She also serves as SpEd consultant of the Neurodeveopmental Center of De La Salle University Medical Center. Teacher Kismette is an active professional member of the Autism Society Philippines and a volunteer of the UST Psychotrauma Clinic.


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School shopping is a big task most especially for parents with first time students. Add to that, each special school will offer different programs which can overwhelm a neophyte school shopper.




Here are some practical pointers which parents need to know when school shopping.


1. PROGRAMS


Children with autism (CWA) are placed in special schools under the recommendation the developmental pediatrician, neurologist, clinical psychologist or SpEd diagnostician. These professionals administer assessment and recommend interventions for the CWA. At this point, parents should do their homework by knowing some terminologies used in SpEd.


It is best to ask the schools regarding their programs. Do not relay on brochures and other marketing paraphernalia.


SpEd programs differ in each school but they can be classified into:


a. MAINSTREAMING, which can be partial or full. For partial mainstreaming, the CWA is enrolled in SpEd class, but attends regular classes in one or more subjects, say art classes to have the opportunity to interact with neuro-typical children.


Full mainstreaming is for CWAs who meet admission requirements for placement in regular classes. It has provision for “pull-outs” for one-on-one instruction, or a shadow teacher in classes where the CWA finds it difficult to cope. To sum it up, partial or full mainstreaming means the school provides adjustments for the CWA’s special needs.


b. INCLUSION refers to the placement of a CWA in the regular class using his/her age as the sole criterion for placement, given he passes all admission requirements. There are no provisions for pull-out and shadow teaching.


c. SELF-CONTAINED classes focus on functional curriculum for CWA to learn necessary behaviors and skills that can help them either cope or deal with daily and lifelong activities. These are for students who may not yet be ready or may not be fit for mainstreaming.


All programs may include tutorials and/or therapists (physical, occupational, speech), counselors and psychologists employed inside or outside school.


2. PROFILE OF THE SCHOOL PERSONNEL


SpEd involves services of specially trained personnel — like teachers, administrators, and even paraprofessionals who possess additional competencies for serving exceptional students.


Ask about the background of the teachers in terms of their education, training and exceptional students handled. Ask who will handle your child? Have they handled a CWA (in class/school) before?


3. CURRICULAR OPTIONS FOR THE CWA


CWA have specific needs which can be addressed in modifying the contents of the curriculum. Pacing of the curriculum can be faster or slower compared to others depending on the capacity of the CWA. Functional reading, language and math should be emphasized for CWA. Provision for life skills (eating, dressing, cleaning-up, following directions, cooking, crossing the street, using money, etc) is also equally important to be included in their curriculum.


4. SPECIAL EDUCATION FACILITIES AND MATERIALS


What is the size of their classrooms? How many students can be accommodated inside the room? What materials are inside the Resource Room? Where are the rest rooms located? Where are the picture or words system (for procedures and task to be completed) located? What is the layout of the classroom? What are the different areas in the classroom? All these should be able to address the need of a CWA for a structured environment.


5. STUDENT-TEACHER RATIO


The smaller the student-teacher ratio is, the better. So ask: How many students in a class? How many teachers will handle a class? How many students with disabilities will be accommodated in a class?


6. ASSESSMENT ADAPTATIONS FOR CWA


What are the class requirements? What type of tests will be given? How will they be graded? Can your CWA handle these? Will there be adjustments for him?


7. SUPPORT SERVICES


Successful implementation of SpEd programs includes readily available services in the form of the following professionals: counselors, medical practitioners, therapists. Does the school have these support services?


8. LOCATION


How far is the school from your house? Traveling time is crucial for the child to be motivated to go to school. We do not want a child to wake up way too early to catch the school bus or to arrive very late in the afternoon.


A complete list schools for CWA sorted per geographical area can be found in the “Directory of Resources for Persons with Autism” produced and distributed by the Autism Society Philippines.


9. PARENT COMMUNICATION


How will you know your child’s progress?


What programs does the school offer for parents? Who will you contact in case you have concerns about your child’s education?


10. SCHOOL FEES


Would it suit your budget? This factor is very crucial especially if there are other siblings of the CWA who also go to school.


There are other factors to consider, but this list can be a quick guide for parents who are school shopping. It is best to take time off from work or other chores and to attend personally into checking the best school for your child. Exchange notes with other parents of CWA about their school experiences.


Enjoy with your child his/her first day in school…it can be very exciting!


Uploaded with permission

Acknowledgment to Manila Bulletin: "Shopping" for a special school?


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