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Natural Born Optimist

Submitted by on 05/03/2012 – 11:21 amNo Comment


I attended a CSE meeting yesterday for a boy was transitioning into high school. His achievement is a few years below grade level and his cognitive skills are in the low- average range. The school staff encouraged the parents to place him in a 12:1:1 classroom in the high school. The parents, concerned about the potential for bullying in high school were supportive of the placement. As a Behavior Analyst working with the child at home, I was put in an awkward position. My role at the meeting was to explain services he’s receiving at home, notto advocate, especially since the parents and school appeared in agreement. However, I did not feel the school adequately explained the long term ramifications of the placement. Just before the meeting broke up and everyone was ready to sign, I voiced my coneern, stating, “I believe this guy is capabable of attaining a regents diploma and graduate. How will this placement effect that?” The chair, a bit surprised, said “oh no, the 12:1:1 classroom will not provide him credits toward graduation.” this was news to the parent, who was stunned. The chair went on to say that the program was focused on vocational and life skills and was not academic in orientation. The meeting broke without resolution regarding placement. Transitions are very difficult for children on the spectrum; from elementary to middle school, from middle school to high school, from high school to adulthood. These are times that professionals should take extra time to explain to families the implications of their choices for their children. Sometimes this means being “realistic” about the child’s capabilities. At other times, “optimism” is the key to preventing doors from being closed prematurely. In Animals in Translation, Temple Grandin said that the thing she likes about behavior analysts is that they are “natural-born optimists. I am an optimist: I prefer to try, measure, revise, try again. If a child can’t acquire a skill, I try to teach it differently. Some kids won’t get a regent’s diploma. That’s OK. But why not try first?


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