Transforming Special Education

Some thoughts from Ashish on how special education can be improved to further incorporate autistic individuals in society:

Special education requires a change in course governments are spending not enough money to educate children with autism. They are always short of funds to provide the necessary supports and services. This is unfair to the students and creates problems down the road for students, their families, and society at large. These problems include low self- esteem, unrealised potential, high unemployment, and lack of integration into society. The problem is worsening at an alarming rate.

My business plan calls for government to work with private industry to identify skills that students with autism bring to the table. The schools would then orient the curriculum towards the students acquiring proficiency in these skills. The students will graduate from high school ready to work and contribute meaningfully to the employer. For every successful placement the employer will reimburse the school with a sum of money, thereby easing the financial burden of the school.

An example of a useful skill would be making pizza in a restaurant. The student will take classes in culinary arts, pizza basics, working with appliances, math, language arts, and basic science. This will be supplemented with lots of practice in a test kitchen. This will ensure that the student graduates ready for a job.

Another example of a skill would be software testing. There is a huge demand for software testing, and students with autism are uniquely qualified for this work. The classes would include basics of Microsoft office, basics of testing, and math classes to learn to record and analyze test results. This would be supplemented with extensive testing practice.

The government must initiate pilot projects with private companies at the earliest. There must be a sense of utmost urgency around this effort. Companies must be provided incentives like tax breaks to participate in such initiatives. Only then will measurable progress be made.

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World Power

Ashish just finished his first online course that will count towards his high school diploma: Macroeconomics! Overall, he performed very well throughout the course, and really enjoyed the material. Ashish wrote a one page essay as his final exam, which discussed the role of his country of choice (the United States) in the world economy. 

The United States is the world’s most powerful economy. Despite the racial tensions, the United States thrives today because the people are talented. And despite this, animosity cannot really stop the economic growth of the country. The youth of our country must work with business to grow the vision statement outside the boundaries with which the United States has trust with.

The United States is the most developed country in the world. It has one of the best educational systems in the world. This equips the workforce to make high tech goods. Ricardo’s law requires us to import raw materials and components from other countries. In turn this allows us to export high tech goods like semiconductors and oil exploration equipment to the rest of the world. We also share our natural resources with other countries that allow the ‘Made in USA’ label goods into their country. The countries should set prices that are based on supply and demand, and are fair to one another. The United States has one of the best transportation systems in the world. This transportation hub in the world economy permits rapid movement of raw materials and goods around the world.

The United States has an open immigration policy. The benefits of this policy are numerous, like our dominance in computer technology. Trump’s late breaking immigration policies may thwart the open policy and result in decrease in innovation. Migrant labor may have to leave the country. Families will be torn apart!

The vast number of countries demand the highest level of integrity in their dealings with one another. The United States must educate the World Bank and major trade organizations to conduct dealings ethically. These institutions ought to hear the concerns of the member countries and resolve the issues in a fair and expeditious manner.

As the most powerful country in the world, the United States’ role in the world economy rests upon the role of the rest of the world, and is ten times the weight of the standard measure of that role. Our responsibility is to standardize the workings of the world economy and ensure fair dealings for all countries.

We are so proud of how far Ashish’s writing skills have come! Not only has he truly demonstrated his mastery of Macroeconomics, but he wrote this essay in only 2 sittings! His drive and stamina is certainly to be admired. 

Overall, he has done fantastically in his first course, and we are excited to see his performance in the courses to come!

Fences 

Ashish saw the movie Fences, starring Denzel Washington, a few days back with his dad. After the movie, Ashish offered his perspective and opinion about the characters in the movie. 

Ashish:  I liked the movie. He (Denzel Washington) portrayed the role of the cutthroat man well. But hardy breadwinners need you in the bygone times. My heart goes out to him (Denzel Washington’s son in the movie). 

Dad: How did you feel about the wife?

Ashish: She was a sweet lady who suffered wistfully. 

It is amazing to see him at a point where he can connect to the characters in a movie, as well as he comfortably critique the film! His level of open-ended repsonse, especially with his dad, has really grown during the holiday season. 

We can’t wait to see what the New Year brings for his progress!

18

It’s fairly common for people to set goals and make resolutions on their birthdays, and Ashish is no different. On his 18th birthday, Ashish set 10 amazing goals for himself. I can’t wait to watch him relentlessly pursue and achieve his goals, like the tiger he is.

  1. I want to attend all Level 3 classes- He wants to attend higher level classes in order to receive more academic content input.
  2. Cut down on my food-  He wants to be more health-conscious.
  3. Become easy to communicate with all- He wants to be able to communicate freely and easily with everyone around him.
  4. Can adapt to more meaningful speech towards attending classes- He can use speech to participate in his classes.
  5. Become fluent with a wireless keyboard in answering questions independently- He wants to communicate independently.
  6. Become a fluent talker- He wants to develop and improve his speech.
  7. Become water-adept and acquire swimming skills- He loves water, and wants to learn how to swim.
  8. Attend Georgia Tech for engineering- He wants to go to college (and one of the best ones in the world, if I do say so myself!).
  9. Pay my own bills- He wants to support himself and be independent.
  10. Never stop due to my speech disability- He never wants to be locked away again.

Heading Up, Up, and Away!

Often, I like to look back and think about the incredible progress Ashish has made in the past few months. After trying numerous therapies to help Ashish, when we first started using the letter board, we were only vaguely hopeful about the results. However, that first magical session led to a series of amazing discoveries- discovering his comprehension, intelligence, feelings, and personality.

I remember in one letter-boarding session, Ashish described himself as a tiger. He said that after years of being incognito, his time to shine had come. Today, I can’t think of anything more true. He has steadily been taking on and accomplishing every goal that comes to his mind. The biggest of these goals is the pursuit of this education. In these past few months, he has demonstrated competency in several academic topics, and he has worked to teach himself numerous more. He watches Khan Academy and works with a tutor to advance his skills in subjects like math (his favorite subject!), science, and economics. This semester, he is currently enrolled in a US Government class with Level 3 (high-functioning) special needs children, and he is excelling in his assignments and exams.

Apart from pursuing his educational goals, he is using the letter-board to hone other skills such as speech, typing, and summary synthesis. Biweekly, he meets with a group of autistic teenagers and discusses the presidential candidates, their policy views, and the upcoming election. He communicates very elegantly through his letter board and keyboard- his fingers fly, and his writing style is very mature.

Ashish has made tremendous strides in the past few months, but there are still a ways to go. In a recent letter-boarding session, Ashish was asked to set short-term and long-term goals for himself. What he wrote- and what hurt us to realize- was “I am not sure.”

“There is so much more available to me now, that I would not have dared to dream of earlier. Not that I don’t have goals, they have just never seen a reality. Do not think that I don’t want to share them, I just need time sharing things that I never thought anyone would ever have the opportunity to hear.”

Despite his uncertainty, we know that he can (and will) only go up from here. His intelligence, passion, and motivation will allow him to achieve whatever he sets his heart and mind to. One of Ashish’s current goals is to obtain a high school diploma. He hopes to enroll in more Level 3 classes, and soon after transition to regular-education classes. Throughout this journey, and any journey he pursues, we (his family) are standing with him. Whether we are working with him, finding him resources, or advocating for him, we are going to support him the whole way.

And in the next few months, I cannot wait to see where he goes from here.

 

Insight of the Day (7/14/16)

We’ve been working on various math skills with Ashish for a while now, in order to understand his skillset and build upon his competency. We are impressed with the amount of math he already knows- he’s flying through 7th, 8th, and 9th grade material, and is even excelling at college-level probability and statistics! My mom was curious to know: where had he learned all of this previously? He had never been taught math directly, yet his foundation is strong.

Ashish’s reponse? I LEARNED MATH THROUGH SHEFALI’S HOMEWORK.

It all clicked, and it makes perfect sense. Over the years, as I worked on homework and asked my parents for help, Ashish was always lingering and always listening. He would also come to me as I was working and watch me work. It’s amazing to understand how keen his perception is by realizing how much he learned through indirect means. It’s equally amazing to understand how that mean was through me- to understand how much of a role I have played in his education thus far. His perception, coupled with his willingness to learn and obtain a proper education, has proved to be a powerful combination. Now that we are focused on furthering his education, we are excited to continue observing his brilliant performance, as well as learn more about what he wants to do with his education.

3/10/16, 3/19/16- The Three Parts of the Brain

Our first indication of Ashish’s academic interests began today: upon being given a choice to do a history or science lesson, Ashish chose science. Today’s lesson was about the brain, its various parts, and the functions of each parts.

What is the brain responsible for? WAY YOU MOVE AND THINK
If the brain is not functioning properly, what is one thing that could be affected? SENSORY PROCESSING
What area is responsible for the majority of the brains function? CEREBRUM
What part of the nerve cell did I specifically mention? AXONS

What part of the brain are we talking about now? FRONTAL LOBE

Tell me one thing the frontal lobe is responsible for. MOTOR CONTROL

What area is in the frontal lobe? BROCAS
Tell me about your Broca’s Area. IT HAS DEFINITE DEFICITS EVEN THOUGH I CAN SAY SOME WORDS. NOT EVEN CLOSE TO MY GIFTED THOUGHTS.
What lobe are we talking about now? PARIETAL LOBE
What cortexes can you find here? SENSORY AND MOTOR
Tell me about your sensory and motor. THIS WILL SOME DAY IN THE NEXT FEW YEARS CONTINUE TO HAVE STUDIES ON IT. EVENTUAL FINDINGS WILL COMMUNICATE THIS IS WHERE AUTISM RESIDES.

What type of movement requires larger muscles? GROSS MOVEMENT
Name a body part involved in gross motor movement. CORE
What type of movement requires smaller muscles? FINE MOVEMENT
Name a body part involved in fine motor movement. EYES
What is the role of the Wernicke’s area? IT HELPS YOU IN THE UNDERSTANDING OF SPEECH AND LANGUAGE
Tell me what body functions the cerebellum controls. IT IS RESPONSIBLE FOR COORDINATION

Tell me one function of the brain stem. IT CONTROLS YOUR HEARTBEAT

Tell me about your brain.
JOINING IT SOMEWHAT WITH MY LAST RPM SESSION WITH YOU, I THINK MOTOR IS THE ISSUE IN MY SPEECH NOT MY INTELLIGENCE. I HEARD YOU SAY SPEECH CAN IMPROVE WITH RPM. IS THAT TRUE? I HATE NOT SEEMING SMART SO I THINK THIS WILL HELP ME SHOW I AM. I MEAN RPM THEN TRYING SPEECH.

Not only is Ashish a science buff, but he’s also putting his science knowledge to use to understand his autism! Today, we were able to understand how Ashish has viewed his autism all these years. His frustration is certainly understandable, but at the same time, his passion and determination to express himself is unwavering.