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Julianna Cohen

Prof. Rodrick

ENGL 115

8 December 2017

To Conform or To Not Conform

Do you want to follow the crowd or do you want to stand up and be whom you are? Have

you ever stood up and forced that change? In society, people feel like they have to stand up and

become who they are or conform to a model that society has set for them. With children who

have autism, schools call this mainstreaming. Mainstreaming means that kids with autism and

who are on the autism-spectrum have to conform to fit into the mold that schools have set up for

students. They are not involved in the extra programs and help that will allow them to maintain

their own identity. The autism spectrum is a model created to identify kids with autism and to put

them into categories that define their level and how they can function in society like high

functioning to moderate and low functioning. While schools believe that all children should

follow the same model and adjust their identity, students on the spectrum should not have to as

due to: needing the extra monitoring and help, being labeled as a group and not having an

individual identity, and being labeled as someone who is retarded and not being recognized for

the true identity that makes them who they are.

While children with autism do attend public schools with school district funding, children

on the spectrum have a better chance of being who they are while excelling in school with extra

help and programs. Students go to school to study and learn and by these experiences they

discover their interest and their strengths and weaknesses. With kids with autism, they may not

be able to express what they like in school and their strengths and being able to get help for what
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they are struggling in. As stated by Laura Madsen in her article, Mainstreaming May Not

Benefit Autistic Students, children may display some mild signs of autismperhaps poor

coordination, or they focus on certain things for longer periods of time than usual and then

children who display more severe autistic traits, and can have difficulty learning because of

reduced attention spans, or maybe even display signs of aggression under circumstances and

teachers and personnel at public schools may not be equipped or trained to handle these

behaviors and situations (Madsen). Madsen is stating that teachers and school professionals need

to understand that there are different levels of autism and that you have to recognize each level

as needing a different range of monitoring and care. Children with autism and who express the

mild symptoms can be mistaken as children with behavioral problems, so with hiring the trained

professional needed to watch over and help them, they can bring out more of who they are as

people and excel in school. High functioning autistic children are known to be able to contain

more social skills than children who are more on the low functioning end of the spectrum, which

is how trained professionals, and aides know how to take care of the kids. In her article Madsen

also states an example of a school experiment that went a little bit out of hand because the person

in charge of the experiment, was never told that there were some special needs children in the

groups that could require extra supervision and while working with a soap solution and not-

toxic paint, one of the autistic children at the table wound up drinking some of the soapy paint

solution as a result which was from lack of needed supervision (Madsen). These children

needed to be watched, and due to lack of supervision by the extra aides specifically for students

who needed extra supervision, there was more harm that could of occurred to the child. A childs

identity can change from one event and it is unfair that these kids might now always be labeled

as misfits or misbehaviors because of one incident due to a lack of supervision. The aides job
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was to watch the kids and make sure they were safe and they were not able to successfully do

this. The school had failed to properly watch the students and provide the necessary amount of

supervision required which meant that the future label the kids would of received is not their

fault but the schools. If schools do not pertain to a standard of supervision and watchfulness to

autistic students than mainstreaming is not seen as a viable option.

Even though children with autism are still individuals with their own strengths and

weaknesses, they struggle with their identity because schools are known to group them together

and say that they are all the same. As stated by Thomas Sowell in his article titled, Many

Diagnoses of Autism Are False, some parents who had their children diagnosed as autistic later

found that, it has become obvious that many of these children are not autistic and that they

were having diagnoses by people who never set foot in a medical school or received any

comparable training that would qualify them to diagnose autism (Sowell). Sowell describes the

frustration that misdiagnoses and unfair group classification can put on the children and parents

and that it can later travel to school and beyond. Parents and schools are allowing these

diagnoses to define their kids even though the diagnosis may be false and eventually cause more

harm than good. A child being mislabeled and then receiving treatment for something they do

not even have gives no positive effect to them and makes them question who they are because

they have now found out they were not who they thought they were. Grouping kids with

different disorders and behavioral issues all together and saying that they all need the same

treatment does not allow individual students to get the proper help they need and does not allow

individual identities to be expressed. Also Sowell also states in his article, the autism spectrum

provides a way to not group diagnose kids but provides wiggle room for those who were wrong,

so that they can avoid having to admit that they were wrong and this correlates with schools
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having an excuse of why they might be group typing kids who need extra help (Sowell). Schools

and the doctors who may diagnose or label kids sometimes over reach or misjudge too quickly

and Sowell is introducing a way that the people who diagnose can cover themselves if they

diagnose to harshly or just plainly wrong. Doctors and officials who misdiagnose make sure that

they are covered for the fault that they have made but forget to consider the effects brought on to

the child because they want to cover only themselves. Children who become labeled with

something can feel that who they were is gone and that they have a whole new identity they did

not even approve of. Children at a young age are at the point of their lives finding out who they

are and what they feel makes them who they are and labeling them with something that may not

even involve them is wrong.

Due to children being labeled with autism, sometimes they are misunderstood and labeled

for being retarded or not smart when they are may be quite intelligent or truly gifted kids. As

Lawrence Scahill states in his article Autism is Not an Epidemic back in the earlier times of

autism diagnosing, the instruments were not very good at differentiating between children with

mental retardation alone and those with both autism and mental retardation which means that

some kids were given an extra label that was not even relevant to them or necessary (Scahill).

Scahill is stating that doctors diagnosed children with mental retardation may have also truly

had autism but they also sometimes group kids who were only autistic onto a spectrum that

labeled them as also mentally retarded. Schools take these diagnoses and then label kids together

to which does not allow for the proper growth and development that kids need. Individual

disorders need individual and specialized treatment and grouping them all together into one does

nothing for the child and the growth for his personality and identity. As seen in this YouTube

video posted by Ramapati Singhania, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NPzZQIVm660,


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kids who become mainstreamed do have success but schools have to factor in the mental

and physical effects of mainstreaming kids (Living With Autism | Your Childs Needs In

Mainstream Schools). Schools use less funding when kids are group labeled and not put into the

proper programs. Autistic kids may have trouble expressing who they are and without help on

how to, identity does not come through and even be a place in their lives.

School is supposed to be a place where kids can learn and be themselves but with schools

wanting to mainstream autism-spectrum related students, their identity is not known with them;

not getting the proper extra help and monitoring, being group labeled with kids with other

disorders or even misdiagnosed, and being labeled retarded or stupid with even no

intelligence limitations. Children need help when they learn basic social and motors skills and

providing the needed personnel and assistance is just one way that schools are supposed to help

kids discover who they are and what they are capable of. Kids need to learn self-expression and

being able to vocally express even the slightest thing and this is what that extra help can do for

autistic kids. Misdiagnosing kids does not allow anyone to get the proper treatment that they

need and could eventually make a small problem with no issues worse. Group labeling kids does

not allow one individuals problem be known from all the others and does not let him get the

proper help and may cause him/her to be berated for something they did not do. Having anyone

being labeled retarded or stupid can cause someone to feel hurt and while some autistic kids

are not able to understand the emotions that come with these words, it is allowing others to think

of them in a negative light without knowing the real them and that the label may not even apply

to them at all. Autistic children are not all lacking in intelligence and labeling someone with this

in school can have negative consequences to them and even someone in the school that may
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actually need the help that will be given. Identity is how everyone is viewed in the world and if

we give one institution the power to change who individuals are, all that true self is gone.
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Work Cited

Living With Autism | Your Childs Needs In Mainstream Schools Youtube. Uploaded by

Ramapati Singhania, 2 August 2016,

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NPzZQIVm660. Accessed 26 October 2017.

Madsen, Laura. "Mainstreaming May Not Benefit Autistic Students." Behavioral Disorders,

edited by Roman Espejo, Greenhaven Press, 2014. Opposing Viewpoints. Opposing

Viewpoints in Context,

libproxy.csun.edu/login?url=http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/EJ3010640250/OVIC?u

=csunorthridge&xid=26dc7b8a. Accessed 17 Oct. 2017. Originally published as

"Mainstreaming: Maybe That's Not the Way to Go," www.theladyinredblog.com, 12 Sept.

2012.

Scahill, Lawrence. "Autism Is Not an Epidemic." Behavioral Disorders, edited by Louise I.

Gerdes, Greenhaven Press, 2010. Opposing Viewpoints. Opposing Viewpoints in Context.

Accessed 17 Oct. 2017. Originally published in Pediatric News, vol. 42, Apr. 2008, p. 24.

Sowell, Thomas. "Many Diagnoses of Autism Are False." Mental Illness, edited by Mary E.

Williams, Greenhaven Press, 2007. Opposing Viewpoints. Opposing Viewpoints in

Context, Accessed 17 Oct. 2017. Originally published as "The Autism 'Spectrum,',"

Conservative Chronicle, 17 Sept. 2003, p. 29.