We are a small program that’s still somewhat in startup mode, and unfortunately, we are generally not in a good position from which to accommodate special needs students. As it is, we have a high success rate in maintaining an orderly and efficient atmosphere in the classroom, and we consider that one of the best things about our program—especially as so many schools these days seem to fail at protecting the student experience in this way. This particular strength of our institutional culture comes at a cost, however. That is, that even among those who are not considered to have special needs–not all are good candidates for our courses, on account of not being yet developed/matured enough to comply satisfactorily with our Code of Conduct and our House Rules.
Now, having said all that, we realize that developmental psychology is hardly an exact science–and we’ve had more than one student “on the spectrum” do well in our classes. It is a question, then, of “how much?” That is, of how much and how often any particular student will present an unruly disruption to the class experience. Many high-functioning students with various conditions turn out not to have any “special needs” at all in our classes, providing no disruptions at all. So, it comes down to a judgment call, based in part on best guesses from past behavior.
Generally, in cases in which it seems like a particular student in question might be expected to remain orderly based on his or her track record, we are amenable to giving it a try–with the firm agreement that if disruptive patterns emerge, the student’s enrollment will be withdrawn, just as would the enrollment of any student failing to remain orderly in class.
We sympathize with and respect the situation of special needs families, and we regret that we are not in a position to help in whatever special ways that your students might need. We also ask that you sympathize with and respect our situation, too, and that you resist the temptation to try to sneak in a student with known issues without having a frank and straightforward discussion about it in advance. While it’s tempting to keep the facts to oneself in hope that it might work out well, our experience has been that it generally causes more difficulty for everybody as the situation is eventually discovered for what it is.
We are also faced with an additional difficulty that we’d like you to consider. If we take on a policy of enrolling students with borderline behaviors, while it might seem “not that bad” in any particular case, we are left to deal with the cumulative effects of multiple low-level disruptions, potentially even manifesting all at once—and even with possible undesirable interactions between various special-needs students. This is what forces us into a “nip it in the bud” position. Indeed, this is why we set the barre so high with our non-special-needs student population, putting them in time-out (on the rare occasions that such is necessary), or even removing them from enrollment when habitual patterns of disruption become apparent.
In short, it is the disruption and disorderliness that is at issue here, and not the special needs that may prompt it. We hope that this adequately explains our policy, and we welcome any questions or comments you may have. You may contact Jack Pelham here.