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Canada: Schools struggle to accommodate MORE violent (autistic) students

Jan 5, 2019, Globe and Mail: Educating Grayson: Are inclusive classrooms failing students? For decades, educators have tried to welcome students with special needs in regular classrooms – but faced with behavioural problems and violence, some school boards resort to sending those pupils home. What will it take to make inclusive education work? Lisa Kahn developed a daily routine this fall. She’d eat breakfast, feed her family and get her two children ready for school – Grayson, a seven-year-old boy with strawberry blond hair and blue eyes, and his older sister, Avery. After she dropped them off, she’d practise deep breathing with help from an app on her watch. And then she would brace herself for the phone call. At some point during the day, she knew that Grayson’s school was likely to call and ask her to pick him up because he was causing trouble. If she made it through the day without the phone ringing, she’d steel herself at pickup for a staff member to approach and tell her about something awful her son had done. Ms. Kahn had hoped the school could accommodate Grayson’s developmental disorder – he was diagnosed with autism in the summer of 2017, and while he’s verbal and can impressively add figures in his head, he becomes aggressive if rules change or the work becomes too difficult. But in September, he was suspended for part of the day after attempting to push an educational assistant down the stairs. A couple of weeks later, he picked up a chair and tossed it at another child. On other occasions, he punched, shoved, kicked and threatened staff and other students, school administrators say. And then in late October, everything boiled over. After an incident when Grayson struck an educational assistant, leaving her with bruises, scrapes and a concussion, the seven-year-old was expelled from school. … “Not only has he been stripped of all his peer connections,” says Ms. Kahn, “but he’s been stripped of his right to an education.” The Kahns have filed a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario and they’ve appealed the expulsion. … The family’s experience highlights the growing challenges that parents – and educators – face when it comes to accommodating special-needs children in the public school system. Over the past few decades, schools across Canada have moved toward a model of inclusive education, but many are struggling to find the best ways to include children with complex needs in regular classrooms. The issue of inclusive classrooms has become a matter of fierce debate – and some educators wonder if inclusion has gone too far for students with very complex needs. … Teachers report an uptick in violent incidents disrupting classrooms, tensions arise among families who feel the safety and learning of their own children are at risk, and school districts struggle with embracing inclusion while providing a safe environment for staff and students. Meanwhile, families with children who have intellectual and developmental disabilities are increasingly being asked to pick up kids early, start the school day later or simply keep them home for the entire day. … Jacqueline Specht, director of the Canadian Research Centre on Inclusive Education and a professor at the University of Western Ontario’s faculty of education, says the system is clearly broken when a seven-year-old is expelled and can’t be properly accommodated. “What are we doing that we expel seven-year-olds instead of really looking at what’s causing this behaviour, and how do we stop that behaviour?” …
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