THE ACADEMIC PROGRAM @ SK – Part 1



We are a specialized resource for academic training for AUTISM in Bangalore. One of the most challenging areas for most people who work with Autism is the academic training. In India, with my past experiences so far, it seems like an uphill task and also futile in most cases. Being an organization that works with teenagers and young adults, I have come across many many youngsters who are attempting their NIOS 10th or 12th and struggling and also many others who have attempted and finished their 12th and are not using or applying any of that knowledge nor have understood any of what they have done.


I have visited many resource centers and schools that work with Autism and have concluded that most seem to have failed with helping the kids acquire a specific academic level. More surprising for me is the fact that I am consistently bombarded by parents with young adults for help in working with their comprehension skills and also for application and re-introduction of academic principles. It makes me wonder why we have suppressed and tortured so may children for so many years to do academics which eventually does not have any meaning or practical applications either.


The most surprising thing for me has been how the highly functioning children on the spectrum have regressed here to a point of no return. Many young adults in the age of 17 or more do not even have the comprehension of a 7 year old. Their concepts of education are so superficial and rote managed that application is completely absent and most importantly there is no generalization of concepts, which is all because there exists no comprehension of concepts.

Now the concern – If we cannot teach high-functioning Autism then what can we do? And what about the many children spread on the spectrum with varied intellectual levels and difficulties, what happens to them? How are we going to help the ones on the lower end of the spectrum and who is responsible to ensure that development is managed, as it should be? Where do these kids turn to get help and what about the many parents who have no options to work with? Do these children not deserve a good education? Does good or structured education even exist anymore in India? Do we know how to teach or have we completely forgotten what teaching should be all about? It is these questions that I will hope to answer here.


WHY ACADEMICS?

Academic’s training does not mean that the children must just go to school and acquire rote mechanisms and pass an exam that is done with aids or prompts but the true meaning of education is to help an individual survive. And for a person on the spectrum to survive certificates do not mean anything if the person has not attached any meaning to the process of the education that he or she has been put through. Academics must mean that we see development with cognition, logical reasoning, analyzing, problem solving, practical functioning, reapplication of concept, critical and creative thinking, generalization, acquiring information about life processes and finally the development of communication, expression and comprehension.


DO ACADEMICS MATTER?

Should we even go that path? Should we teach these children? The answer to that is a non-debatable YES. Each and every child must be taught and has the right to be taught primarily because only this teaching will help the child develop. The child will not develop if education is not offered in the way it should be. If the child does not develop then how are we expecting him to survive in any environment? If we are not able to hone the kids with basics and foundational concepts then what is the point of any kind of training at all?


Many children on the spectrum go for many years to the many special needs resources, one on one training sessions with professionals and also inclusive set-ups wherein they have shadow teachers – special aids and all of these environments use what we call structured teaching which is what they must be using. But still, the consequences are very different and the children are not developed appropriately – there are many lags in concepts and there is a serious fall-through with development.


This lag in turn will create more problems in areas of communication, comprehension, social skills, self help skills and also life skills. If a child does not develop, then all areas will be affected and since the child has now grown into this large sized young adult the problem definitely seems more hard and impossible to manage. Many children are completely lost and a process that must help define them instead helps to push them back in the darkness. And this is all despite the early intervention techniques, ABA and TEAACH techniques along with behaviour – social and life skills management programs too.


Now this gets more scary – we are all trained and we are all using the same devices and it is what everyone uses for autism around the globe then why is it that I have seen more children fail here as opposed to in Scotland. My exposure to children irrespective of where in the spectrum seem to have faired better with development there. Why? What are we doing wrong here? Why are the same techniques not working here? Why are the kids here always blamed for being low functioning or having behaviour or psychological problems, which is hindering their development? It’s one human race with a problem then, how can it respond so differently to the same techniques? Is the problem really with the child on the spectrum or is it the system? And what about the parents and their role in helping us solve this malady?


It is these questions that I will be answering in the next section and in process help many of you understand why we are different and how we work. So stay tuned. For now, Signing off – leaving you all pondering so that things can be assimilated and absorbed as expected for such writings.

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