The Self-Fulfilling Behavioral Prophecy
As a consequence of this assumption, although the schools generally have been moving toward greater inclusion of children with disabilities, the trend as to autistic children has turned sharply in the opposite direction. Ari Ne'eman of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network recently discussed with New Jersey legislators the federal statistics on education of children with disabilities, which show that at least 39% of students on the autism spectrum ages 6-21 are educated in segregated settings in New Jersey schools. The rate of segregated settings for autistic students ages 3-6 in New Jersey is an alarming 58%.
It's just not true that autistic children cannot be educated in the same classrooms with their non-autistic peers or that their presence in the room prevents others from learning. Yes, they have behavioral differences, but that does not necessarily mean that they will be disruptive in classrooms with teachers and aides who have had proper training and who understand their differences. In addition, strict enforcement of anti-bullying policies can go a long way toward reducing the anxiety that is often the root cause of behavioral problems. And it's not always the autistic kid who is more likely to misbehave—after all, when was the last time you saw an autistic student taunting other kids because they weren't popular?
When children of a minority group are routinely segregated from others and are treated as if their very existence is a burden to society, they may come to internalize these attitudes and to feel that they are no good. Such children, especially if they are bullied, are likely to hate school and to decide that they may as well act up whenever they feel like it because everyone expects it anyway. In this scenario, which unfortunately is all too common, the negative assumptions and expectations found in the school system have created a self-fulfilling behavioral prophecy.
We are moving in the direction of two separate and vastly unequal educational systems: one for the "normal" children who are expected to succeed in the classroom, and one for the autistics who are thought to need behavioral interventions—instead of a meaningful academic education—to prepare them for a lifetime of being obedient wards of the state.
Our children deserve better.