I would like to commend Guelph, Ont., mother Lisa Kahn for having the courage to go public with her autistic son’s story (Educating Grayson, Jan. 5).
She speaks for the many parents who might fear shame and judgment if they come forward. This, in turn, fuels a culture of silence and isolation for many affected families. Judging from the follow-up articles and letters to the editor, this is a serious and urgent problem which needs immediate attention. Let’s make sure the risk Ms. Kahn has taken in exposing the enormousness of the problem has not been in vain. Barbara Loosemore
I take issue with a letter writer’s characterization of special education classes as “much more about daycare than learning” (Is It Fair To Put Kids With Complex Needs In A Regular Class? Jan 8).
I teach in a self-contained classroom for students who have intellectual (developmental) disabilities at a high school. I work together with my students to set their learning goals. Students learn to take the bus, cook their own food, get jobs, communicate their hopes and dreams for their future, and develop social and self-regulation skills that serve them through their lives. We teach academic skills, too.
Last October, we ran a schoolwide fundraiser and collected more than 1,000 pairs of socks, distributing them to local shelters. We run a popcorn-sales business, and operate a clothing closet serving the student body. Every student, regardless of their disability, can participate in these activities. We are an important part of our school.
Please don’t assume that placing students in a self-contained classroom “doesn’t do much for the disabled,” as the letter states. Heather Calder Elmira, Ont. As a retired high-school English teacher and special educator, I’ve worked with students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in both inclusive and congregated school settings.
When I began working with adolescent students with ASD I was surprised to discover that my background in learning disabilities was well-suited to meeting the needs of my students who also learn differently. Temple Grandin, a leading ASD expert who also has autism, challenges educators to adopt a strength-based approach to teaching. In her book, The Autistic Brain, she encourages us to “stop thinking about what’s wrong [and] instead [think] of what could be better.”
My students taught me that a strength-based approach can reveal abilities and talents previously hidden or misunderstood; and as their strengths developed their challenging behaviours receded. Of course, challenging behaviours need to be addressed and understood but as part of a strength-based approach to teaching and learning. Corinne Levitt
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