I have seen quite a few news reports recently about Autism, and how schools should become more 'autism friendly'. This is possibly one of the stupidest things I have ever heard.
My brother is highly autistic, but being created in the mid- 1980s he was not diagnosed until he was about 11. He was sent to a school where all the autistic and problem children were sent, and was only able to come home at weekends (due to the school being 200 miles from our home- not through any choice of his or my parents). I will be the first to admit that his was not a Grade A education, but it was a good Jillion times better than any he would have got at a standard school- and equipped him for life much better than any local schools could have.
Autism is not school friendly. It is all well and good to say that Autistic children 'have the right' to go to a crappy local comprehensive school- they also have the right to thrust their faces into a blender but that doesn't mean it is good for them, nor does it mean we should force them to in the name of equality. It is not black and white, and no two autistic people have the same needs. Almost as if they are real people, and are all different.
My brother was born with a paralyzed tongue, rendering his speech pretty unintelligable to people who do not spend every day with him. When he was in the same primary school as me, this caused problems- not for him, but for me. Poor, poor, selfish little me. Kids know, deep down, that these things should not be laughed at and people should not be bullied for their problems (only if the problems are serious and obvious- nobody wants to be known as the kid who picks on the wheelchair boy but they are happy to be known to slap a chubby kid). This meant my brother, with his weird speech and easily influenced ways was rather popular. It also meant that I would walk home each evening being pursued by bowl-cutted morons throwing stones at me and shouting about how I had a spastic brother.
The main reason schools should not work on becoming Autism friendly is that schools are often not even Pupil-friendly. In the area I live in there are plenty of secondary schools, but there is a clear hierarchy. There are two that consistently get the best pupils, and have the best facilities and teachers. An autistic child would not survive long in either of these schools, as so much emphasis is placed on academia that they would be either bullied out or expelled for no real reason, to keep the grades high. Likely they would gravitate to the few little idiots in the school and get encouraged to act up until they were public enemy number one.
Then there are the two schools where the naughtiest kids wind up. The schools with the toughest teachers, who are so used to having to shout abuse or turn a blind eye that the autistic children would sink without trace and wind up on drugs by 14 (or in the case of one poor girl that wound up in my brothers school, getting pregnant at 13 by a 6th former who later got imprisoned for selling cocaine to an 11 year old).
I went to a school at the bottom of the chain. It is called Westfield, in Watford. I mention it out of sheer vitriolic hatred. A very nice man came to our house and explained, apologetically, that as I had no older siblings in a good school and had the best grades in my primary school, the county was sending me to the school that consistently achieved a 14% pass rate on GCSE's and 6% A-Level. The plan was to put us in there as stealth students, subtly making the school look better each year. It didn't work. The few of us in my year that weren't academically challenged quickly became apathetic. There are only so many times you can hear a teacher go over something before you zone out and start reading a book or playing with your gameboy (which really is not a euphemism). By the third year, all the students expelled from the schools with better pass rates were in mine, increasing the amount of times simple concepts had to be explained (and causing group reading to go at a pace so slow a sloth got bored and picked up the book to finish it himself). By the time we were due to take our exams, and all other schools had sent the kids on study leave, we had not actually finished the curriculum. We had to continue with lessons until AFTER our exams (a lot of which were about things we weren't covering until the week after). If I had gone to a better school, and ONE autistic child had been put in with me, the same would have happened.
My brother was in a school with a whole spectrum of autistic children, from the ones who could tell you what colour and make every car that went past in the last 3 days were, but struggled to dress themselves, to those that had held knives to the throats of their sleeping parents before dousing themselves in petrol, but could quote Shakespeare until they were blue in the face. All of the children in his year have moved out of their parents and are working. The same cannot be said of my school. My brother worked in a garden centre for 5 years, and had his own flat where a Mencap worker popped in on him 3 times a week. Having recently been to a reunion slash open day at his old school with him, it seems all of the ex-pupils are in similar situations. When my parents pass away, he is equipped to live on his own. Had he spent his formative years learning about long shore drift, equilateral triangles and Charles Dickens, he would have no real concept of money, work and social interaction, and all his friends would be local enough that he never had to think about leaving home.
So schools being autism friendly is a bad idea, but opening more schools just for autistic people is a bloody good one.
Footnote- I said my bother HAD worked in a garden centre- this is due to the fact that he was sectioned under the mental health act 3 years ago and has yet to be properly released. This is in no way his fault and is all to do with societies fear of a grown man going to a shop near a school, then being unable to articulate to a passing policeman that he needed help topping up his phone. And his subsequent temper tantrum at being punched in the back and handcuffed by an 18 year old police officer. And quite a lot to do with the police not contacting anybody to try and translate for him (you know, as they would for somebody who wasn't English) despite his Mencap worker being with him and trying to explain. But that is another story, for another time