Question for Families of Children with ASD in public school

aristocatz

DIS Veteran
Joined
Feb 22, 2009
Hello,

I'm hoping to gain some valuable insight from families of children with ASD who attend public school.

I oversee ASD-related services in a public school district. The programs have been in place for 12 years now. Even though there is a variety of services offered (depending on need, severity, etc), it has always been known as "X District's Autism Program." Many of our families can be quite vocal if they are upset about something, but no one has ever complained or expressed offense about it being called an "Autism" Program also has several consultants who are titled "Autism Specialists"

This year, we have new administration & they have expressed that we can no longer call our program an "Autism Program" with "Autism Specialists." They say it is wrong and offensive to reference the program by the a disability.

I do want to add that our self contained classrooms are not referred to as "autism classrooms." & these terms "Autism Program" "Autism Specialist" are strictly in reference to the IEP, fundraisers, program description on our website, etc... We do not ever refer to the students as "Autism students" to their peers or to staff or say things like "Hey, there's the autism classrooms."

This has never occurred to us before. We use best practice teaching strategies for students with ASD. & I"ve always felt that families have taken comfort in us having this title, because it helps guide them in the right direction in our large district & they know who their "point person" is. Again, even our outspoken families have never expressed any displeasure toward the disability reference.

Just wondering how you feel about this? Does it offend or bother you?

What does your district call your child's specialized services or program or specialists/consultants?

If you were to change what you labeled the services or program or change the name of the consultants who oversee the programming, what would you call it? Please no acronyms-I am not a fan of "cutesy" program names. I find them somewhat degrading.

Thanks!
 
Last edited:

Trose25

Earning My Ears
Joined
Apr 10, 2012
Personally Autism Program or Autism Specialist doesn't offend me. I've heard people say instead of saying "autistic" we should say "person living with autism" and for "disabled"it would be "differently abled". In my district they are called behavioral specialists or behavioral consultants and the program is called ASD Nest Program and they increase neuroversity in the classes. I hope this helps!!
 

aristocatz

DIS Veteran
Joined
Feb 22, 2009
Personally Autism Program or Autism Specialist doesn't offend me. I've heard people say instead of saying "autistic" we should say "person living with autism" and for "disabled"it would be "differently abled". In my district they are called behavioral specialists or behavioral consultants and the program is called ASD Nest Program and they increase neuroversity in the classes. I hope this helps!!
Thank you so much for your input.

What does "NEST" stand for?
 
  • Trose25

    Earning My Ears
    Joined
    Apr 10, 2012
    I don't believe it stands for anything. I think it just means a safe, nurturing environment in a mainstream classroom.
     

    lanejudy

    Moderator
    Moderator
    Joined
    Oct 27, 2011
    My daughter does not have an ASD diagnosis. However, she has received services through our school's "autism program" because those services are appropriate for her needs as well. While I don't find "autism program" or "autism specialist" to be offensive, I find it somewhat exclusionary and -- I do not mean offense -- it tends to tag my daughter with a label that isn't accurate or appropriate, simply by her participation with those services. That is sometimes frustrating to non-ASD children and families. I can understand how families with a child with ASD appreciate the program and the name gives them a feeling of belonging in a world where these kids often do not feel that way. However, it's possible your administration is trying to be more inclusive with the program. Our program is officially called "Kaleidoscope" and recognized throughout the broader area, not just our community or our district; and while it is commonly understood to be "the autism program" that is not the official name and the school administrators, teachers and specialists try to use the proper name.
     

    aristocatz

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Feb 22, 2009
    My daughter does not have an ASD diagnosis. However, she has received services through our school's "autism program" because those services are appropriate for her needs as well. While I don't find "autism program" or "autism specialist" to be offensive, I find it somewhat exclusionary and -- I do not mean offense -- it tends to tag my daughter with a label that isn't accurate or appropriate, simply by her participation with those services. That is sometimes frustrating to non-ASD children and families. I can understand how families with a child with ASD appreciate the program and the name gives them a feeling of belonging in a world where these kids often do not feel that way. However, it's possible your administration is trying to be more inclusive with the program. Our program is officially called "Kaleidoscope" and recognized throughout the broader area, not just our community or our district; and while it is commonly understood to be "the autism program" that is not the official name and the school administrators, teachers and specialists try to use the proper name.
    Thank you so much for your response. I do understand-& agree with-where you are coming from.

    What are the specialists in the Kaleidoscope program called? Autism Specialists? Behavior Specialists?
     

    lanejudy

    Moderator
    Moderator
    Joined
    Oct 27, 2011
    Well, titles can vary; and from my experience a title is nothing other than a label, what matters is the tasks and experience (including education) required in that position. I believe the kids consider them "teachers" and their actual schooling/degrees may vary. I know some are special educators, guidance counselors, long-time classroom teachers, SLPs, behavior specialists, and para-educators. And yes, at least 1 staff member considers herself an "autism specialist" though I believe her education is special ed probably with a focus on individuals with asd. I believe the individual's experience and training with children with special needs is much more important than a "title" in a staff directory.
     
  • SueM in MN

    combining the teacups with a roller coaster
    Moderator
    Joined
    Aug 23, 1999
    My daughter does not have autism, but also has some issues that are similar to autism.

    One of the issues I see is that many things that would be very helpful to other people are called or marketed as 'autism' services.
    Theaters have "Autism Friendly Movies". The newer language they are using is "Sensory Friendly", but then they pair it with autism.
    Airports have special "Autism Friendly" days where people can look at/experience the screening process. Again, they may be called something else, but always paired with autism.

    This makes it unclear if the program is meant only for people with autism and it can feel very unwelcoming to people who might benefit from that service, but don't have an autism diagnosis.
     

    aristocatz

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Feb 22, 2009
    Well, titles can vary; and from my experience a title is nothing other than a label, what matters is the tasks and experience (including education) required in that position. I believe the kids consider them "teachers" and their actual schooling/degrees may vary. I know some are special educators, guidance counselors, long-time classroom teachers, SLPs, behavior specialists, and para-educators. And yes, at least 1 staff member considers herself an "autism specialist" though I believe her education is special ed probably with a focus on individuals with asd. I believe the individual's experience and training with children with special needs is much more important than a "title" in a staff directory.
    Agreed. & I think most of our families feel the same way. This is why I'm a bit confused & torn about going through the trouble of changing all of these titles. I feel the time & energy should be spent on the students & solving issues that affect their education, instead of spending so much energy into the titles & names. If families or students were offended, I would feel differently.
     

    aristocatz

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Feb 22, 2009
    My daughter does not have autism, but also has some issues that are similar to autism.

    One of the issues I see is that many things that would be very helpful to other people are called or marketed as 'autism' services.
    Theaters have "Autism Friendly Movies". The newer language they are using is "Sensory Friendly", but then they pair it with autism.
    Airports have special "Autism Friendly" days where people can look at/experience the screening process. Again, they may be called something else, but always paired with autism.

    This makes it unclear if the program is meant only for people with autism and it can feel very unwelcoming to people who might benefit from that service, but don't have an autism diagnosis.
    That is a very good point. & your comment does make me sway my motivation back to this whole name change. But not sure what to call it.
     

    Allison Joy

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Oct 25, 2015
    I work with my state's Vocational Rehabilitation agency, and I was an elementary and early childhood major in college. (Never taught. Long-ish story, but am willing to share if anyone is curious) so while I have no children with autism (or children period, for that matter) I do work with adults with autism and other disabilities. One term I've heard used is "support specialist." Would that work for the job title? And could the program itself have a similar title? Perhaps... Support Network? Or Educational Support Network or something like that, where it's super general? Although that might also be TOO general.
     
  • DrunkJam

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jul 1, 2016
    My son has autism / ASD.
    he is in mainstream school (in the Uk, so it is a bit different I think)
    He doesn't see anyone specialised now, but, when he was newly diagnosed, he saw the "specialist autism teacher". This was not offensive, although it is a mouthful. it was helpful to me, actually to keep referring to the condition by name. And also meant I knew the difference, between all the specialists. The Special needs coordinator, the special needs health visitor, the educational psychologist and the specialist autism teacher.
     

    DisneyOma

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jul 27, 2015
    Our whole department is listed as "Special Education", and our shorthand version used in messages is SpEd. it's not a label we use outside of departmental situations. Our specific classrooms at the high school are called Learning Centers, or Life Skills Classrooms, maybe Special Needs classrooms at the elementary level - not sure there as I haven't been in ElEd for over a decade. There's a lot of ABA used at the ElEd level, so we have behavior specialists with ABA training, etc.
     

    Pridemom

    On our way to the Kingdom
    Joined
    Feb 21, 2016
    My husband is a special educator and his district has an autism program with autism specialists. Would the Powers that be change the deaf or blind/low vision program names?
     

    kirstenb1

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Feb 23, 2010
    I have a child with ASD, and will tell you, the labelling of her programs is the very least of my concerns. As long as her needs are being met, they can call it whatever they want. This type of concern, while well-meaning, potentially diverts attention away from issues I find more pressing.
     


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