What Rachel Smalley, and the public, doesn’t understand about mainstreaming special needs children.

Interesting points and counterpoints. What do you think?

Autism & Oughtisms

Today a reader of my blog asked if I’d read a recent article written by Rachel Smalley, up on the Newstalk ZB website. The reader was not happy about what she read there, and having read it myself I also feel the article needs a public reply. There is just so much wrong with the way Smalley frames the debate she is looking at, that it is hard to know where to start, so I might as well begin at the beginning.

Bu Via Tsuji, via Flickr

Smalley’s article starts off with the recent example of the child with Aspergers and dyslexia, who had been expelled from school because of an incident with a skateboard. She uses this example to launch into the question of whether it is a good idea to mainstream children with special needs. She uses two examples to frame the debate: One where an…

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3 thoughts on “What Rachel Smalley, and the public, doesn’t understand about mainstreaming special needs children.”

  1. I think this is an important topic to address because I’m sure there are more than a handful of people that agree with the woman of the letter and are not educated on why it is so important to allow children with autism to participate in the least restrictive environment as possible. There is so much as OT’s that we can do to help make this transition easier on the children with special needs, as well as, the children who do not have disabilities. It is our job to advocate and educate the public on this topic so that no child is unable to receive the best education possible!


  2. I thought this article was interesting to read about. As I was reading about the behavior Smalley mentioned as “disruptive” I continued to think how OT could help a child with autism in the school. Something as simple as a short sensory profile or general observation could help teachers, parents, and school professionals (OT, Speech, teaching aids, etc.) recognize what triggers certain behaviors in all children, not only children with autism, and help adapt the environment to fit the child. I think it is also important to consider having children receive education in the least restrictive environment which means that a mainstream classroom may be the best environment for a child with disabilities. Overall, I understand that each situation is unique, but in a general lens it is important to look at ways to help address a problem rather than jumping to a conclusion.


  3. I’m glad that there is public response to this article written by Rachel Smalley, because her opinion that mainstreaming children with special needs may be disrupting the education of many is supported by an uneducated viewpoint. I like that the author of the response article points out that what is perceived as bad behavior is not caused by an autistic child wanting to act out, but instead is a response to a lack of personal and environmental supports. Instead of advocating for these children to be taken out of the classroom, people should be advocating to put the supports these children need in the classroom for a better education for everyone. Occupational therapy supports the performance of occupation in the natural environment, so we should be advocating for the mainstreaming of children with disabilities with the proper supports to ensure success.


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