Alright – so, If you read the Minneapolis Star Tribune lately then you saw the articles written about people with disability in Minnesota and how many of them are in segregated workplaces, living situations, so on and so forth. I heard from the reporter writing this that Vermont has one of the best inclusion programs in the country for individuals with disabilities which includes autism.
Most of the programs that have been written in the paper are under DHS or our state Medicaid agency which we all know moves slower than tortoise. But there is sadly another trend of secluding children with disability particularly autism in the education system. There is a school district in Minnesota that has put all of the children with autism from kinder-garden to eight grade in one corner of a building and it is just them, no nuero-typical kids go there or even know what is down there. Not kidding.
Least restrictive environment under IDEA clearly states just that – children’s needs should be individualized based on their educational need in the least restrictive placement. Yet, this school district decided to use public funds and seclude kids with autism from the rest of the general education children. Their reason – well kids with autism have meltdowns and we did not want neuro-typical kids to see that. I kid you not. Another bogus reason, well – this way all of our speech, OT, etc. therapist don’t have to travel from school to school. Seriously, I kid you not.
Let’s explain this in layman’s terms. This district would rather not inconvenience their paid therapy staff, so they put all of these kids from five years old to 15 years old in one secluded, doors locked location. The bigger question is why the heck would the state education department approve such clearly inhumane placement. These children or their families don’t have access to the general education area. In fact, recently the school principle was giving a tour to the upcoming parents and their neuro-typical kids and did not mention the contained autistic kids placed downstairs in this building. To make matters worse, one of the students asked “what is down there?”. The principal panicked and stated – nothing “we don’t go down there”. How is that for LRE. If parents of this publicly funded district want to visit or observe their kids – they are told no or given silly excuses such as “well – you could see a kid having a meltdown. Right because you know autism parents have never seen that. Or my favorite – you being there will make our adult paid by public funds (just do your darn job) nervous. I kid you not.
Remember the Jensen and Olmstead case that has sparked so much outrage because vulnerable individuals with disability were being locked up and abused in publicly funded placement. Well – now imagine these kids who can be abused just as easily while the parents are not allowed to visit and the administration of this district would rather help and support their staff than the very children they get paid to teach and support. Not surprisingly, this secluded program’s ASD kids are mostly minority while zero, zilch, zippidy are staff of color. Not kidding. If these kids were mostly Anglo – I am certain such program would never exist nor would MDE approve it. Yet here they have without blinking because minority ASD kids are not even as good as animals.
Think about this for a moment, when these kids leave school into the real world, how do you think they are going to act? Wild and with more behaviors because they have not been exposed to the real world in their education setting. Equally important the neuro-typical kids are also denied access to these ASD kids which means when they see a kid with autism-like behaviors in target or some other public place, they will give the judgement eye, look and disbelief. Oh and when the district was asked why not expose the general education kids to the autism program – their response…….wait for it……it is really original…..middle school kids are self-observed and would not care or have compassion for ASD kids. I kid you not. This is 2015 in progressive Minnesota nice school district – how do you like them apples?
Study published about middle school kids and autism stated that less than 47% of kids ever heard of ASD. My guess is because of districts like this one that seclude and hide kids with ASD from their typical peers. That is so sad and heartbreaking to me as an autism mom and as a human being.
Cambell, J.M., & Barger, B.D. (2011). Middle School Students’ Knowledge of Autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 41(6), 732-740
Above words do not represent any candidate, agency or committee.
Idil – Somali Autism Mom & Minority Advocate.