For children with autism, school can be a huge obstacle, both for them and for their parents.
Managing their daily routine in the classroom can be a real challenge for 1 in 68 children with autism.
“Kaleb was going to kindergarten, they pulled me aside and said Kaleb was having a hard time transitioning. I don’t know what that means, I’m offended, you know, we’re moving on” , explains Chantelle Buckner. “He’s going to second grade and he’s struggling to read.”
Kaleb Davis, 12, is a very bright and highly functioning child with autism. He attended Detroit public schools and was falling behind. Her mother was frustrated by the repeated phone calls from school. He didn’t follow and was constantly in trouble.
“He acts, these are behavioral issues and we need to fix them. Everyone, principals, guards, security – everyone knew me, that’s how often I was at his school,” Buckner said. .
Kaleb said he struggled to concentrate in class and complete his homework.
“Sometimes I would walk away from doing it,” says Kaleb. “Usually I didn’t or didn’t understand it.”
Jannell Phillips is a neuropsychologist at the Henry Ford Hospital Center for Autism and Disabilities in Hamtramck.
“There are a lot of challenges for children with autism and in schools in particular there are social difficulties that arise,” Phillips said. “The program can be difficult for the children – the behavior of the children can have differences and so it can be a bit difficult to manage in all this context.”
After receiving professional advice, Chantelle decided that public schools were not the right answer for Kaleb. She researched her options and decided to enroll her in Highpoint Virtual Academy of Michigan.
“It was the best decision, it’s not homeschooling – like it’s my own program, it’s a virtual school you can take anywhere, you can go to the park,” she says. “He went from reading in first grade to fifth grade. He went from not wanting to raise his hand and participating in raising his hand in class.”
Dr. Phillips encourages parents to find the best option, but suggests starting with the public school system.
“I really encourage parents to have open communications with schools,” she adds. “They really need to talk to their educators and get together to figure out what the best plan is for the kids.”
She says the downfall of online classes, private schools and home schooling may be due to the lack of government-mandated programs available in public schools and lack of socializing.
Kaleb has self-defense which he does an hour a day. There are children with whom he socializes, which gives him the opportunity to rub shoulders with other children his age.
Kaleb is now thriving at Highpoint Academy. When he grows up, he wants to be a paleontologist.
“A paleontologist is researching ancient dinosaurs. Seeing real dinosaurs resurrected from fossils would be a dream come true for me,” Kaleb said.
“I thought my kid wasn’t going to make it on his own, but he showed us that anything you throw at me, I can beat it,” Buckner said. “I’m so proud of him. I really am.”
Don’t forget to talk to your school and doctor to find the best education for your child.
Everyone has different needs and challenges in their life.