Back to school or what?

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Wednesday, June 4, 2014


NOW that school is about to start next week for regular kids, I am sure that parents of children with special needs are again at a crossroad of choosing whether to send their child to a special education program or not.

The perennial question for most of us: Is it important and necessary to send the child with autism spectrum disorder to school or just let them stay at home? There are several factors to consider such as the appropriate program for the child, the location and facilities of the school, the teachers' experience and background, the support services provided by the school and last but not the least, the affordability of the fees.

On one hand, I have met some parents who are not willing to spend for the educational development of their child because they do not believe that their child would improve at all. Knowing that autism spectrum disorder has no cure, some parents are discouraged to send their child for education intervention thinking that it is just a waste of time and money. Hence, some children with ASD are kept at home without any productive activity, oftentimes left to the care of a nanny or simply allowed to be glued to the television for the whole day.

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On the other hand, some parents bombard their child with all the therapies and special programs available in the locality in the hope that the child will eventually be mainstreamed in the regular classroom.

As a parent, my advice is not to give up on dreaming and planning for the child with special needs. However, in doing so, the parent should be honest in giving the best and most practical choice for the child. I am talking about choosing between non-traditional interventions (e.g. auditory training, casein-free/gluten-free dietary programs, supplemental medications/vitamins, stem-cell therapy, among others versus educational interventions. Under educational programs, the parents have to choose between mainstreaming their child in a regular school or enrolling him or her in a learning center or facility. Mainstreaming, however, presupposes that the school has a special program for children with ASD and that the child has already acquired skills in social interaction and communication.

Many parents enroll their child in a learning center or facility that offers learning modules or curriculum for the development of the child.

There are learning centers and facilities in Davao City that offer development programs for children with ASD. I am encouraging parents to devote time in scouting for the learning center or facility that can provide intervention courses, programs, modules that can develop not only the educational skills of the skills but also his or her social interaction and communication.

Parents can also enhance the learning capability of their child by enrolling him or her in a Music and Arts school or engage him or her in a sports activity.

-o0o-

Jane Ann S. Gonzales is a mother of a youth with autism. She is an advocate/core member of the Autism Society Philippines and Directress of the Independent Living Learning Centre (ILLC) Davao, a centre for teenagers and adults with special needs. For comments or questions, please email janeanngonzales@yahoo.com).

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on June 04, 2014.

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