I am by no means an expert on autism or on education. But it seems to me that trying to fit an autistic child into the school system is nothing like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. It's more like trying to grow an orchid in a sea of daisies: their needs are so different, that the orchid might survive, but it would never bloom in the environment that daisies require to grow.
My own little orchid is proof that some children are different enough from the mainstream that they don't flourish in the "ordinary" environment. Matthew continues to grow, but doesn't flourish any longer. The demands of acting typical, even when he clearly is not, weigh on him daily.
I have a friend who is a school teacher. She has a child with mild ADD, a nephew with Asperger's, and has been involved with Matthew since we met her and her son in pre-K. Matthew and her son are friends, and play occasionally on weekends. She teaches in a Montessori school, and understands the needs of special children.
On the other hand, she is very open about her own challenges in the classroom, dealing with a child with behavioral problems. Daily disruption takes away from the education of the other children in the class. She believes that the child needs more support, but his parents have pushed for inclusion in gen ed as the least restrictive environment for that child, and the school district has agreed.
I have always been an advocate of using the least restrictive environment for students with challenges. Matthew has done well in gen ed for many years, and it is my sincerest hope that one day he will return to gen ed. The experience leads me to wonder, however, whether his school environment truly is a good fit for him. The more I ask others about it, the more I realize that no one really knows...and no one knows what to do about it. Educators tell me that he needs social skills, and will get that in school, but he is not getting social skills training in a self-contained classroom where he is the only student most of the day, or in the principal's office where he goes when he can't cope, or in the sensory room, trying to calm his overstimulated brain.
I am concerned about the social skills, and about my ability to handle what is happening to us. On the other hand, I feel that I owe Matthew an obligation to do what is best for him. And my gut is screaming to me that he needs to come home, and be with me, and "unschool" for a while. Jeff and I discussed this today; one week, and if things don't turn around, he's coming home.