My 9-year old son has autism. The kindest term I have for forced mainstreaming is ‘evil’. In my sons 3.5 years of school, he has been in a ‘good’ school district (USD 450) for 1.5 years, and spent two years in a ‘better’ school district (USD 501) where it was believed that all students must be mainstreamed as fast as possible.
My sons kindergarten year was amazingly great in USD 450. Despite the fact that my son did not speak English, his teacher worked with him utilizing a variety of visual methods, and he learned most of his alphabet, and though behind his class level, you could see that he was making significant progress.
However, due to a family move, my son spent his 1st and 2nd grade years in USD 501. Those two years will go down in the annals of family history as the years from hell.
Everywhere they thought remotely possible, they, according to district policies, attempted to mainstream my son. In every case, he became extremely loud, profane, and if not removed in time, extremely violent.
Due to the problems we encountered with his teacher in his first grade year, he ended up attending a different school his second year, though it was in the same district.
This year was better, however, to ‘force’ him to learn socialization skills, he was thrown into a class that was composed mainly of students with ’emotional’ and ‘behavioral’ problems. The result? He learned to fight. He learned to return violence with violence. He learned that it was okay to hit, push, kick, shove other people, as long as it was addressed in the behavioral section of the IEP.
The result? We fled. We ran away. We moved back to USD 450.
My son once again is attending the same school as his year of kindergarten, and so far, with only a couple of exceptions, he has behaved himself very well. He is learning, not just to read and write, but also how to treat other people. He is ‘mainstreamed’ for some of his classes such as PE, Music and Art, however, about 60% of his day is still spent in his segregated classroom.
Unfortunately, with some disabilities, it is simply impossible to mainstream, especially when you consider the impact this will have on other students. I do agree that all children should be mainstreamed if possible, however, mainstreaming based upon intelligent guidelines and common sense are what works, not bureaucratic mainstreaming based upon financial decisions.