Studying the Wrong Pathology

I just read an article about researchers studying the issue of transitioning children with autism to school. The study goals are as follows:

During each visit, children will be assessed on their academic skills, with a focus on language and literacy. Parents will also be interviewed to assess perceived school factors, such as quality learning opportunities and child engagement. In addition, parents and teachers will complete questionnaires to measure factors such as the child’s social skills and behavior, the parent’s involvement in school, and the student-teacher-relationship.

On the one hand, we want to applaud the effort. On the other hand, we already know what makes for a successful vs. unsuccessful transition to school. If this study will give support and legitimacy to proper transition, I’m all for it; however, the researchers need to know that the transition to school of children with autism is difficult due to two things: 1) ego and, 2) turf wars.

Here’s what good transition looks like: it is seamless, meaning that the consultants and therapists working with the child in a behavioral treatment program (whether home or school-based) are permitted to follow the child into the school system. Unfortunately, due to the outsized
ego of the school system’s special educational professionals, there is no way that the majority of schools will allow private consultants to continue to develop an autism education plan for that child while at school. In addition, due to union turf wars, there is no way that most schools will hire the therapist who has worked well with that child prior to kindergarten, so that they can be the child’s aide in the school.

Consequent to these structural problems in public education, we can safely assert that smooth transition to school has nothing to do with the child
(as I have discussed in a prior post). It has everything to do with the adults that can’t compromise on their interests to accommodate children afflicted with the most severe psychiatric condition catalogued in the Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders(DSM).

So, I have a word of advice to these researchers. Instead of testing the children, w
hy don’t you research the organizational culture of the school system to get an understanding of why transitions do not work for children with autism? That should give the researchers a renewed understanding of why there is so much U.S. litigation (not to forget a landmark Canadian case) when it comes to autism and the school system. Put simply, since the problem of smooth transition to school is with the grown ups, let’s study that pathology instead of the kids.