Autism is a developmental disorder as it is marked with pervasive and severe impairment revolving around areas of development such as communication, imagination, reciprocal interaction and behavior. The diagnostic criteria for autism as incorporated by the DSM IV TR includes symptoms such as impairment in the use of nonverbal behaviors like eye contact, gestures, bodily postures during the normal routine social interaction, the inability to form good peer relationships, delay or lack in the development of the language being spoken, failure to start a conversation despite an adequate ability to speak, restricted and repetitive behaviors and stereotyped behavior patterns, interests and activities. Many of these symptoms along with few others are supposed to be present in an individual by the age of 3 years in order to be diagnosed as autistic. As a matter of fact, even if the parents notice something wrong or abnormal in their child during infancy, the symptoms of autism are not obvious or diagnosed before 18 months (American Psychiatric Association, 2000).
Many of the children who are autistic are often diagnosed with mental retardation, hyperactivity, temper issues and other behavioral symptoms. The level of intelligence may vary from one autistic individual to the other and this may also be true for their special skills or their ability to decode, calculate or excel in other verbal skills. Studies reveal that approximately 5 out of 10,000 people are seen to suffer from the autistic disorder. As mentioned earlier, the onset of this disorder is just before 3 years. However, parents might often report and show concern for the child to be lacking in social interaction from the time of birth. Moreover, this interaction pattern may vary according to the age as well as the developmental level of the child. For instance, autistic infants would not cuddle or show indifference to affection, they would fail to respond to the voices of their parents and refrain from eye contacts. This reaction may often make the parents think that the child is deaf. On the other hand, young individuals with autism might depict a different behavior as compared to the infant. They would cling to a specific person and they may be more directed to the hand of their parent thereby avoiding an eye contact.
The Impact of Autism on the Public School
Autism is a condition which may be attributed to a number of known and unknown causes. Among them, studies suggest that Autistic Disorder is more likely to be caused by the brain dysfunction due to which it is often referred to as a neuro-developmental disorder. At times, there is also the genetic component which could be a determinant for such a condition. Receiving, perceiving, processing, learning and interpreting are some of the ways of processing information which results in behavior deviations common in autistic individuals (Zander, E. 2005).
It is difficult to completely cure autism but with special assistance programs along with a favorable environment, autistic children can develop in an effective manner. This is possible through a well planned educational setup where children can learn to deal and thereby do well with their behavioral impairments. These educational approaches must focus on providing unique learning strategies whereby which children are able to learn (McCabe, H. 2003).
Identification along with the assessment and diagnosis are amongst the first initial steps when it comes to working on the condition of autistic children. Following this, it is essential to provide the appropriate information and knowledge to the parents and the care takers of the child who is suffering from autism. Both of these steps would play a significant role in the development of the child. Similarly, a special and specific school and schooling practices are a necessity for autistic children. In addition to the education being provided, the home environment as well as the routine activities also influences the development of people who are autistic (Zander, E. 2005).
Although, educating autistic children is an important step in aiding their development process, providing them the right education is a matter of concern. This is because of the fact that children with autism are in simpler language classified as children with disabilities. For this reason, there is a huge difference in providing education to the normal children and to the kids with disabilities. The major problem in this context is the level of awareness which varies from one educational institute to the other and from one part of the country to the other. Studies put forward the idea that many autistic children are kept out of the special as well as the regular schools due to a number of reason. One of the reasons is the idea that approximately 75% of the autistic children also suffer from cognitive impairment (Gray, 1998). In contrast, researchers say that public schools have greatly improved in their learning programs and the way they educate children with disabilities. As conspicuous in China, such children attend a special school as the education of the general schools is not designed to accommodate such students. In contrast, there are times when even the special school fails to educate and address the needs of autistic children and those having other problems along with autism. This is because of the fact that these special schools are actually established for children with physical, visual, hearing and other moderate speech or cognitive disabilities. Therefore, these schools are unable to provide the required education to the autistic children.
While examining the case of China, it could be seen that the country faces a substantial percentage of autistic children who suffer from a number of disabilities. They continue to be institutionalized and are kept at a distance from the normal community life. However, with time especially after the Education Law, the State Department of Education has put in a number of efforts in increasing the amount of students with disabilities in public education. In order to achieve this target, Suiban Jiudu is being practiced. It is a practice which promotes receiving education in regular classrooms and in public schools (Deng & Manset, 2000). This idea was first implemented in the rural areas of China to promote the 9-year mandatory education for children. However, one of its major goals includes the task to increase the number of children with disabilities being enrolled at the public school. Ironically, Suiban Jiudu is more focused upon maintaining the quantity of students attending school rather than taking up steps to improve upon the quality of education being provided. The underlying truth is the fact that this program does not guarantee the right quality education for children having disabilities. This makes it different from the educational practices of the West. Suiban Jiudu does not include parental involvement when it comes to education and it is also not interested in implementing the Individualized Educational Programs (IEPs). This strategy may be beneficial for the rural remote areas of China but it is not catering the needs of autistic children. Therefore, the approach adopted by Suiban Jiudu towards the children with disabilities cannot be replicated in public schools or by the educational programs across the world (McCabe, 2003).
While talking about educating the autistic child, the foremost area of concern is the educational approach that is being adopted along with the place where it would be implemented. In other words, special schools vs. The public schools have long been a debatable issue. This is due to the fact that at times parents with autistic children are not satisfied with the education being provided in the special school. In contrast, often there are parents who complain about the inappropriate education being provided by the public schools. This suggests that neither the public schools nor the special schools are designed in a manner to completely meet up to the requirements of children with autism. Therefore, there is a dire need to improve upon the quality of education and environment being provided by the educational institutes so that instead of suffering, the autistic children start to improve. In this regard, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) which was amended in 1997, emphasizes upon providing appropriate education to children as well as the youth having disabilities thereby encompassing the age group of infancy to 21 years. In addition to the public education, the act is also designed to cater to the needs of these individuals and help them prepare for employment along with independent living. Furthermore, The United States Department of Education have clearly outlined the six major measures of IDEA which include free and the right/appropriate public education, the development along with the implementation of the individualized education program (IEP), proper evaluation, placement in such an educational environment which is least restrictive, the provision of student as well as parental participation when it comes to decision making and the enactment of the safeguards (Volkmar, F. 2005).
IDEA gives high preference to the involvement of parents especially in the process of decision making because it holds the view that parents having children with disabilities are well aware of…