By Natalie Migliore
BOUT 20 PERCENT OF CHILDREN IN NEW YORK CITY PUBLIC SCHOOLS HAVE DISABILITIES, INCLUDING AUTISM. AS PART OF WFUV’S STRIKE A CHORD SERIES, WE TOOK A LOOK AT EDUCATIONAL CONCERNS FOR THESE KIDS.
Jeanne Alter walks the halls of Kennedy Children Center in Harlem. The school caters to pre-schoolers with varying degrees of disabilities. The walls are covered with painted flowers and the doors are individually decorated to make students feel welcome. Alter says the classes are small — between six and twelve kids, but they’re not all at the same level.
“Grouping children according to their language and social ability are the best way to educate very young children,” Alter said. “Children with autism don’t imitate other children, that’s one of the characteristics of their learning. So, we try to put a mix of children in a classroom, because if you just have eight children in a classroom who don’t imitate each other there’s no imbedded role models.”
Amanda Friedman is the founder and Executive Director of the Atlas Foundation for Autism. She also runs a school for kids with autism. She says it can be a challenge for public schools to accommodate students with special needs because they simply lack capacity.