In some students, autism is more severe than it is in others, and teachers must learn to anticipate this if they are to be successful in the classroom.
The severity of the autism can make the difference between whether students with autism should be included or whether they should be taught separately (Shattuck, et al., 2009). Students cannot make that decision, of course, but the parents and teachers can work together to determine which is going to be the best option for the individual student. Where some subjects are concerned it is more difficult to make this choice, as well.
One of those subjects is math, because math can be complicated and can build on what was previously learned (Jimenez & Garcia, 2002). That can be a problem for autistic students, because they often do not learn as easily or retain the information they have learned for as long or as well as general education students. When students have concepts with which they struggle, like mathematics, they can have serious trouble keeping up with their peer group (Jimenez & Garcia, 2002).
Naturally, this is something significant in the lives of the teachers who are trying to help them and also in the lives of the students who may lose confidence when they have trouble keeping up and they see that they are failing at something the other students can do easily (Caronna, Milunsky, & Tager-Flusberg, 2008).
When autistic students are not included in general education classrooms they generally hold their own or even excel among their peers in a special education classroom, which can mean that they have much more confidence than they would have had if they would have been included with general education students (Shattuck, et al., 2009). One failure (or perceived failure) can breed additional failures and lower confidence levels, and those would not be seen if the student was not placed in with students in a general education setting.
The emotional health of autistic students is very important. While they may not register and react to emotions like others do, that does not mean that they do not feel emotions. The issue is one of expression, not one of feeling. Because that is the case, those who are autistic must be nurtured and treated with respect and care, just like others. When a person's emotional health is nurtured, that person often excels (Davidson & Begley, 2012).
Treating a person with care and focusing on the emotional health of that person is one of the best ways to ensure that an individual can reach his or her full potential (Davidson & Begley, 2012). While this is not effective for everyone and no treatment is guaranteed to work, making sure that an autistic student's emotional health needs are met is one of the best ways to help that student, whether he or she is in a general or special education classroom.
All too often, emotional health issues are overlooked (Davidson & Begley, 2012). That is not only true for autistic students, but it is a problem that can be seen in the general population. Little thought is given to the significance of the issue, but in reality it is highly important and also very problematic in nature. People who learn to control their emotional health and not have that health be dependent on anyone's else's perception of them often fare much better in life (Davidson & Begley, 2012).
When autistic students fail, that failure lowers confidence and makes future failures more likely. Additionally, when a student is classified as autistic and then put in a general education classroom, there is a stigma attached to the label (Caronna, Milunsky, & Tager-Flusberg, 2008). That can make the autistic child uncomfortable, but it can also make the other children uncomfortable. When they are unsure how to act around one another, they avoid making friendships that might otherwise have blossomed (Caronna, Milunsky, & Tager-Flusberg, 2008; Piggot, et al., 2009).
There are two ways this can be avoided. One of those ways is to put autistic students only in special education classrooms and not in the general education population. The other way is not to put labels on students, and to allow them to assimilate into the general education population without calling them autistic or anything else.
In the United States, the inclusion of special needs students - including those who are autistic - is something that is very significant to education (Cross, et al., 2004). Studies into the issue show that there are four specific areas that have to be addressed when autistic children are going to be included in general education classrooms (Cross, et al., 2004). These areas have to be addressed properly so that autistic students can feel comfortable with themselves and with each other (Cross, et al., 2004).
The areas are adaptations, attitudes, therapeutic interventions, and parent-provider relationships (Cross, et al., 2004). General education teachers and special needs teachers have to work successfully together if they are going to help autistic students succeed in the general education classroom and allow them to work with and understand one another (Odom, Schwanz, & ECRII Investigators, 2002).
Children have to be ready for the inclusion programs, but the programs themselves have to be able to accept and handle the students (Stake, 2003). There will be challenges that take place in these programs, and the students and teachers have to be prepared for those challenges (Stake, 2003). It is very important for the teachers to take a careful look at the practices and the procedures that have to be used in autistic classrooms, so those teachers are able to determine what the best way would be to include children who have significant autistic traits (Caronna, Milunsky, & Tager-Flusberg, 2008).
When those children can be included and it is possible that all the children involved are able to work together, everyone wins and the situation can be highly beneficial to all of the children (Piggot, et al., 2009; Shattuck, et al., 2009). Autistic children learn better communication and social skills, and general education students learn more about working with others who are different from them.
It can be stressful and sometimes difficult for an autistic child to be incorporated into a general education classroom, but there are ways in which that student can be made to feel more comfortable (Janesick, 2003). That will go a very long way toward helping children who are autistic and meeting the various needs that they have in their education (Horn, et al., 2002). Parents who have autistic children often feel that letting their children attend general education classes can help them socialize (Janesick, 2003).
These children also strengthen their developmental abilities because they are being taught at a higher level than what they would receive if they were in a special education classroom (Caronna, Milunsky, & Tager-Flusberg, 2008). Those are both important issues on which to focus, but despite that there are still teachers who are not comfortable welcoming autistic children into their classrooms when they generally teach general education students. The concern is that it will be too distracting for both the general students and those who are autistic (Shattuck, et al., 2009).
Undoubtedly, some of that concern comes from the idea that teachers may feel incapable of handing autistic children (Beckman, Hanson, & Horn, 2002). Some also comes from the idea that teachers are concerned about autistic children disrupting the rest of the children in the classroom (Caronna, Milunsky, & Tager-Flusberg, 2008). While this certainly makes sense, it seems unfair to continue to exclude children who want and need to learn. Learning is important, and it is not that autistic children cannot be successful at learning. It is simply that they learn differently and, therefore, sometimes have to be taught differently in order to help them succeed (Shattuck, et al., 2009).
The most important of all the factors that relate to an autistic child's performance in a general education classroom is the way that student is treated by the teacher (Beckman, Hanson, & Horn, 2002). The attitude that the teacher and the student have toward one another and the task at hand matters very much, and the better the attitude the more likely the student will be to see success. The way the other students feel about the autistic student also matters, of course, because it is important that the autistic student is properly included in classroom activities and interaction with other students.
The autistic student must find ways to adapt to the setting of a general education classroom, but the general education students must also look for appropriate ways to adapt to the special needs child (Caronna, Milunsky, & Tager-Flusberg, 2008). There will be differences in educational ability, but there will also be differences in…