Parents: Does your child feel like the ‘odd one out’ in school?

I am incensed, having read the post from Special Needs Jungle (26.2.19) outlining the sad experience of a boy with autism (now aged 19) who summarised his time in school as friendless and being the odd-one-out. Most of us cannot even imagine what that must feel like. I know that most schools do their best to include ALL children in activities, whether in or out of school and sometimes it is not easy. Differentiating activities to accommodate all children’s needs is hard work BUT the rewards are surely worth any amount of effort. Not only that, most of the time, cost is not the main obstacle. So what is?

Firstly, parents need to be more involved in school activities and in helping teachers to understand the individual and specific needs of their child. Children with autism often have problems with communication but not all of these needs are the same. Rather than place all Special Educational Needs into boxes of commonality, we need to consider the diverse characteristics of individual children.

Secondly, we must start to recognise that communication needs often need to be explicitly taught. Language and communication skills are the foundation of everything that is learned. Yet, we assume that children absorb these kinds of social skills simply by being with others. For most children this is true but for children with autism, language difficulties, or social, emotional and behaviour difficulties, it is often not the case.

Inclusion means that every child has a right to belong in whatever school they are being educated in. That sense of belonging contributes to well-being. When children feel good in school, they are more likely to be motivated and engaged. They work harder. Such conditions contribute to more relaxed and happier classrooms for everybody – teachers included.

So let’s have an end to children feeling as if they are the odd-one-out. Teaching children who need it HOW to be themselves – in a range of social situations is not difficult. It just needs to be thought about. Teaching children how to make friends and play together is a major aim because well-being enables and contributes to learning.

Inclusion for all means bringing every child IN.

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