Please answer the following question:What are the differences between disciplining a general education student and disciplining a special education student in a public school setting? Specifically, how do you think educators should approach discipline for students with ASD?
Response to each student discussion:
1. This is an involved question – as far as my understanding goes, the differences between disciplining a typical student and a student who receives special education services is dependent on the mandates of the IEP (LRE, diagnosis, implementation, etc.). For example, a student receiving special education services, who has a diagnosis of SLD (specific learning disability) has demonstrated dangerous behavior in classes. Because the school does not allow dangerous behavior, the student will be suspended for two days (just as a general education student would be. Because it’s only two days, the “ten-day rule” doesn’t apply, yet. However, by the third quarter, the student has been suspended four more times (each two-day periods). Now, the student has reached the magic number ten. Here’s where the core difference comes into play – the IEP has now been violated because the student has had a change of placement. This can be remedied through a simple amendment; however, it’s not always simple. That’s when the courts come into play. The ten-day rule also applies to consecutive days; when the student is suspended for ten or more consecutive days, it’s time for a manifestation determination. The role of the manifestation is to determine if the student’s misbehavior is a result of the student’s disability.
Recently, I had a unique situation, one of the students on my caseload, who is diagnosed with ASD, was skipping school. His mom wanted the BECCA bill to be filed so that the student would be held accountable for his truancy. We held a manifestation determination meeting and determined that the truancy was a result of the student’s disability. Therefore, the BECCA bill didn’t hold water – in other words, the student couldn’t be held accountable. An FBA followed and then a BIP.
I’ve been asked for advice on discipline for students with ASD by our discipline assistant principal, and to be totally transparent, I never have the “right” answer. However, after reading chapter thirteen of our text book, I plan on printing out the provided flow chart. If the flow chart is followed, then specific considerations need to be taken into account. I’ll use this flow chart for my own guidance, as well as share it with my administrators.
2. Upon reading the prompt, I initially defined disciplining as punishment. Nowadays, we typically don’t call consequences “punishments” but there are certainly negative consequences to poor choices of actions. Disciplining a student who is developing typically versus a student with disabilities vary greatly. Typically developing children are able to understand higher expectations of appropriate behavior. They are able to make better judgements on what is appropriate and what is not. Students with disabilities may struggle with understanding expectations and exercising sound judgement before they act. Educators should hold high expectations for students with ASD to make good choices but understanding that students with disabilities will have a harder time understanding these expectations and how to generalize appropriate skills learned. More prompts may have to be given and more intensive interventions may need to be used.
Our text provided useful information on Special Education laws. When students in general education breaks school codes and rules, there are natural consequences that may escalate into expulsion. However, according to Rothstein and Johnson (2014), for a child with a disability, the law states that the student’s program must change to address the behavior and they can’t, and shouldn’t, simply be expelled (p. 262). Also according to Rothstein and Johnson (2014), “a school cannot unilaterally change a special education student’s educational placement by removing the student from school for behavior that is caused by the disability” (p. 262).
I teach students with moderate to severe disabilities and we definitely operate under a different set of “rules” when it comes to discipline. My students are not sent to the principal’s office for inappropriate behaviors. They are definitely not suspended or expelled for severely inappropriate behaviors such as biting and hitting. I still hold high expectations for my students to behave appropriately and that inappropriate behavior is not “caused” by their disability. No one is born to bite others or punch others in the face. However, their ability to understand what is appropriate and ability to use sound judgement to make good choices can be hindered by their disability which will take more time and patience to develop and generalize.
Read “Your Child’s Rights: Individualized Education Program (IEP): Summary, Process and Practical Tips,” from the Autism Speaks website.