Let me say up front, that I don’t think Common Core State Standards are shoes that fit any child, but the standards are especially insidious for students with disabilities, who were promised something different with the original Public Law 94-142.
Recently I read an article in Teaching Exceptional Children from a year ago. It was entitled, “Meeting the Common Core State Standards for Students with Autism: The Challenge for Educators.” It struck me that the title and the article emphasized standards—not students with autism.
It should be the other way around. Children with autism are unique. The challenge should be to tailor education to what helps them, not making them do preset standards that are not applicable to their needs.
In this article, there are vignettes about autistic students who are offered a different approach to achieve the standard. Other than the standards as the focus, the behaviors and the teacher guidance is really nothing new. The compartmentalization of what the teacher says to the student, who is off track, and how it is orchestrated, to supposedly help the child achieve the standard, that is new.
Common Core is so measured it doesn’t take into account students who don’t follow the script. Many of these stories could have turned out differently.
I’m reminded of when I first started teaching. It was an institution and I was assigned to a young teen with full-blown autistic tendencies. I determined that I would decrease his rocking in class since it kept him from performing the educational tasks I put before him. So through a “rigorous” behavior mod program, I extinguished his rocking. All smug with my success, I sat next to him one day and suddenly found myself sailing through the air! My little student packed a great wallop on the side of my head! I was fine except for my bruised ego.
Students don’t follow any mold. They are individuals with distinct behaviors and difficulties all their own. Try as the CCSS enthusiasts might, students don’t fall into nice little categories where they all work the same towards the same end. Not that case studies don’t serve a purpose. They do. But it is the notion that CCSS standards are meant for everyone that is off. It is this belief that these standards are somehow the perfect goals for everyone.
I was eventually able to get my student to diminish his rocking less but not entirely—so he could communicate a little more with others and accomplish some of his assignments. I changed my behavior and I readjusted the goals. It wasn’t perfect but it was better. I also sat across from him at the table.
Everything is geared around getting the child, any child, to a point where they are comfortable with what they are learning and how they are achieving. I’ve seen and heard enough horror stories about children crying over assignments and suddenly hating school to tell me CCSS for many children are not working well. Yet, the program continues to be sold with no reconsideration—not even any tweaking.
It is the word must that scares me the most. Why have standards, these particular standards, become what America forces on all children—even those with autism to achieve—when we know they aren’t working?
Consider the opening statement of the previously mentioned article.“The reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act will require students across the nation, including students with disabilities, to meet the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), a set of grade-level expectations. These rigorous standards define what students should know and be able to do to be ready for college and careers (Common Core State Standards Initiative, 2010).”
We must challenge this assertion! Rigor is not what any child needs let alone any student with autism. Guidance, positive reinforcement, even serious structure—yes. But there is no place for rigor in the way it is used here. Nor do all children have to reach the same goal to be successful.
It is a ludicrous message, a serious insult, for children with autism and those of us who struggled for years to understand this mystery group of behaviors—and who worked to assist students to be independent in the things that mattered and to also help their parents. In my case, it was to try to get the children out of the institutions.
Speaking of institutions…CCSS also worries me here. With public schools emphasizing the all or nothing approach with CCSS, where will students with autism, who can’t master the standards, go? Already we see a mass exodus to homeschooling. Parents need something more. They require support and school programs that reflect up-to-date research.
They will not find this in CCSS. Yet, CCSS cheerleaders still argue this new group of standards will revolutionize education.
To the proponents of CCSS, including the well-regarded Council for Exceptional Children (what are they thinking?) who support CCSS and promote it, I say “Show us proof!”
By now everyone knows that CCSS was never field tested for students in general, let alone for students with atypical needs. Claiming that CCSS will assist autistic students is not only unworthy but insidious—far from proven. Reading over various reports about CCSS and autism, I see nothing as innovative or unique.
What I do see are the same standards for everyone, randomly devised miniscule objectives, obsessively numbered accordingly, and paragraphs interjected here in there from textbooks having to do with Theory of Mind (ToM) and Universal Design jargon. Were the standards even devised by anyone with experience with students experiencing autism?
Autism has gone through changes over the years in some positive ways, and yet it hasn’t changed in many ways either. We still don’t know what causes Autism, though there are a lot of speculations. There is also a lot of controversy—vaccines for example.
But with all the uncertainty that autism unwantedly brings to parents, and with the statistic that 1 in 88 children will have some form of autism, don’t parents and students deserve something better from their public schools?
I welcome suggestions as to what parents are looking for to help with their autistic children. To be continued….
Please check out Special Ed. Advocates to Stop Common Core on Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/groups/249171258560458/permalink/382735818537334/
Constable, Susan, Barrie Grossi, Alexis Monig, & Lynne Ryan. “Meeting the Common Core State Standards for Students with Autism: The Challenge for Educators.” Teaching Exceptional Children. Jan/Feb 2013: 7-13.