A recent court decision that awarded seven figures to the parents of an autistic student to pay for private schooling sparked my column in Colorado Central magazine this month.
I feel like the ruling was a disservice to all parties, the education system, and society.
Here in Custer County, Colorado, the experience with the school district has been very different.
My son Harrison does not have an assumed named because around here we fight stigmas and stereotypes even when the going gets tough. In fact he may be one of the more famous autistic kids in Colorado. He was last year’s Colorado Country Life magazine cover boy for autism awareness month. He recently was on the front page of the Pueblo Chieftain. He’s been in the New York Times, and he’s appeared in numerous writings of mine, including as the subject of two books.
Could it be that he’s also inadvertently charting a course for how schools, especially small rural districts, manage students with learning differences? A model for parents working together with school administrators rather than in an adversarial relationship? A system that favors inclusion, acceptance and empathy over segregation?
It’s my view that school should be a learning opportunity that goes beyond academics both for Harrison and his neurotypical classmates. These students who know him and interact with him daily will likely grow up to have autistic people in their lives, and right now Harrison is their only teacher in this subject.
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