Language is important when talking about autism program

Thanks for your reporting on the dismantling of the Citywide Autism Program, it is an important issue which seems to point to a lot of MPS behind-the-scenes restructuring.

I’m a little surprised that your story begins with the headline “Changes to Autism Program Prompts Parents Concern” and ends with a discussion of a woman’s son with Down’s syndrome. A similar change in subject happened in a closed door meeting between the district and concerned ASD parents on June 9th.

It seems the district wants to defuse questions about dismantling the incredibly effective 25-year CAP program by blurring the definitions between special education students and their challenges. The Citywide program has worked because it is like a social and emotional bootcamp for ASD kids (shared challenges/shared resources) that prepares them to confidently enter the mainstream classroom. It is a model that should be emulated, not destroyed. When the district changes the language that distinguishes these kids, they are working to discredit expert educators in both autism, Trisomy 21 and other special need categories. It is a strategy to downgrade all support to the “same” level, and disperse kids to environments with cheap, minimally trained staff.

Erik Johnson