Students with severe autism, severe intellectual disabilities, severe brain damage and other such disabilities often lack the capacity to understand and use traditional educational subject matter to improve any aspect of their life. However, IEP-driven programs for low cognitive, low verbal students continue to overemphasize traditional academics, and underemphasize functional academics. Over-teaching material that is beyond the cognitive capacity of a child to understand and apply to their lives in a meaningful way, is disrespectful to that child and to their disorder. Alternate curriculums for these students should primarily focus on daily situations, and the people, objects, locations and functions within those situations. Instead of this functionally based approach, students are being introduced to information in academics which are irrelevant to their needs and interests, and which do not advance the opportunity for cognitive growth and social success in the school, home and community.
This practice of teaching is as disrespectful as it would be to instruct these students in a foreign language. Reactions by students to curriculum they cannot understand or use can range from aggressive behavior, emotional shutdown or social withdrawal. Read the rest of this entry →