Monday, July 14, 2008

SOMEONE Is Messing With My Son, And There She Is!

People always ask me why I started homeschooling. The short answer is that it was best for my family. The long answer is a lot of stories like the following. Before you jump all over me, understand that I don't paint with a broad brush. There are good autism professionals out there, some might be in your district. That's great! This is my experience...

"No, no, no! Let me Go! Please!" I knew that voice: it was my son. And he was being hurt. I quickened my steps, breaking into a run on the way to his classroom. He needed me, and I would be there. It had been a long journey. Earlier in the year, my son was diagnosed with high-functioning autism. and we were all on edge- He wasn't handling life in the classroom well; he wouldn't attend to his schoolwork, and he wasn't socializing well with his classmates. He had a history of eloping from the classroom which means run the hell out and off campus or just withdrawing under a desk, refusing to engage.

So when I rounded the corner, I had no idea what was in store for me. I ripped open the door and entered the classroom. My eyes immediately went to his teacher, who was sitting in a rocking chair, reading a story to her class. Or rather, that is what she had been doing , before. Now, the book hung in midair and she looked like a deer in the headlights. I followed her gaze and my eyes went straight to my son, who was standing at his desk. But he wasn't alone. There was a woman towering over him, with her arms wrapped around his small, skinny wrists, and he was struggling to break free. She was wrestling my son! Tears were flowing down his face and his voice held a note of panic: "Please, let go let go Please! Ow ow You're HURTING me!" Now, I know there are times that kids need correction but there is never a time to put your hands on my kid. He saw me and yelled, Momma" with all the fear and desperation that you hope that cry will never hold. That's when Mama Bear took over.

"I don't know WHO you are, but my son has autism," this is the first time I had really said this out loud to anyone "and you leave him alone!" She looked at me calmly and said, "I know, I'm the Autism Coordinator." the hell you say?! Is this your normal modus operandi? And I don't know what came over me, because I am not eloquent under pressure, ever. I tend to cry instead, much to my embarrassment.

"Well, then, you know he doesn't like to be touched. Get your hands off him immediately! Can't you tell he is terrified? Did you even READ his file?" She dropped his hands and he rushed towards me, crumpling into my arms, sobbing. I saw red. I comforted my son as best I could. (remember, there is still a teacher trying to teach class amidst this commotion!) Once he was reasonably calmed, I asked to speak to the "Autism Coordinator" outside.

She was extremely apologetic, she knew she was wrong. She ran her hand through her hair. "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry, it got out of hand. He, didn't want to work with me, I insisted, he dumped the game on the floor. I wanted him to clean it up, so I took hold of his hands, doing hand-over-hand to try to get him to comply. I'm sorry you're upset." "UPSET?" I took no quarter. "You realize that my son will never let you near him again? He has a a very large heart, but if you hurt or betray him, you are done. He won't give you another chance. Did you even read his IEP before you showed up to work with him? He does not respond well to the 3-Step Prompt! He will shut down on you! He is too smart for that, you know it is usually used for kids who are lower-functioning! What were you thinking? What makes you think it is okay to put your hands on a child, especially one you don't know?" I took a breath, trying to calm myself. I am, by nature, a non-violent pacifist. I wanted to hit this woman! She was around my age, and was the expert? She should know better! She spoke: "I just put my hands over his hands to guide in clean up. He freaked out. It got out of hand, I'm sorry." She truly seemed to be. Or, maybe she was worried I was calling my attorney to file litigation.

I get how difficult autism can be. It is unpredictable. It is messy. It doesn't do what it is told. The approach has to change for each child. But with my son, respect is yours, as is devotion, until you show him disrespect. Part of the Autism Spectrum is a very black and white thinking, and little shades of grey. You are either a good or bad person, you are a threat or you are a friend. And, back then, at age 6, he wasn't able to distinguish the difference. over the years, he has learned a bit more of the subtleties of life, and with a lot of work is able to distinguish between bad people and bad decisions. If the "Autism Coordinator" had just done her homework on my son? Perhaps reading his IEP as she was rushing from school to school? The whole situation might have been avoided. My son still remembers, and it was four years ago.

Oh, and lest you think I overreacted about my son, his teacher later told me, "I felt like I was witnessing abuse."

So, a message to those who work with our kids on the spectrum: take the time to get to know them. They are people, not paper or projects. They are more than "Reinforcers" and "Behavioral Process Analysis." They are, first and foremost, children. Treat them the way you want to be treated. You might get better results that way. You will certainly have less irate mothers with which to deal.

T, who will always defend my kids

16 sent chocolate:

Lisa Russell said...

Argh- I can't imagine what that must have felt like. You handled yourself very nicely. I'm glad your boy is at home with you. Some people are scared of homeschooling with autism, but I think I'd be more scared of not homeschooling. Your days sound like much more fun now.

Valerie Roberson said...

That is an awful thing to have happened to your son. And by an "expert"?! Crazy.
There is no better place for your son than with you. No one can understand, love, and teach your child as well as you can-and this is from a dedicated public school teacher ;)

Lotus (Sarcastic Mom) said...

Wow, that's intense. I can't imagine how I would have reacted. I think you handled the situation very well, all things considered!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your story. We have many of them with our spectrum kids, and they all need to be out there for others to read and not feel alone in their journey. Our son's mistreatment by a private school is currently under investigation. We are thrilled to be homeschooling instead. It's been the best thing to come out of a horrible situation.

The Insane Writer said...

I wonder, if the teacher felt like she was witnessing abuse, why didn't she step forward and stop it? I understand your pain though. Our school system here isn't the best. We've had a few run ins with the principal's stupidity and the office staff. My step-son's teacher is great, however. She has been very good for him and he has improved sooo much. My husband and I were very worried about putting him in the school system because of his form of autism. However, he wanted to go to school thanks to his big sister. He absolutely loves it.

flickrlovr said...

What a horrible thing to have happen to your sweet boy :(
Thank God you were around and stood up for him. I have a little experience caring for kids with Autism (both high and low functioning) and while it's an unpredictable disorder, there are certain boundaries you shouldn't cross...these children are s-m-a-r-t and usually communicate fairly well with body language, if not with words. You know when they've had enough, or when something's not working for them. It's not that hard. Expert, shmexpert.

Homeschooling rocks :)

walking said...

That is why so many people are homeschooling! Our kids are not numbers nor the sum total of all the facts they can spew on a standardized test nor the hat tricks they can perform when the right buttons are pushed.

I am so glad we live in a free country where we have the right to homeschool our children!

I think I would have wanted to hogtie that woman and I don't even know how!!!!!

Zip n Tizzy said...

How fortunate you were passing by.
I worry about my oldest in school. RIght now he is in a very nurturing small preschool. He is very independent and is very selective about how he follows direction. I often wonder how he will respond to a large classroom environment. I guess we'll cross that road when we get there.

Anonymous said...

This made me cry babe. I know many parents that have been in this situation. All boys on the higher end of the spectrum. People, especially so called professionals, not caring to research the child before jumping in.

My boy is on the lower end. And almost twice the size of kids his own age. So people like that just throw their hands up and don't know, or are too scared to deal with him. But those that do get to know him, adore him. Cause these kids can illicit the purest joy and make your heart sing with their amazing souls.

Hugs to you my lovely. You are a truly amazing mumma bear and I hope that I know you in 3 or so years when I will be homeschooling :)

Anonymous said...

I follow you on Twitter. I went through a similar situation with my son. However, I was not there to intervine, he came home with welts and bruises. I home school as well, but will be sending him back part time this coming year. With a new director and other new staff I am hopeful my son will have a better experience.

Maddy said...

A timely reminder. Sometimes I think far too objectively rather than just like a parent.

Abbreviated said...

Just hate tax-subsidized child abuse.

Mary Beth said...

Hi T. Thanks so much for all your kind remarks on my blog. I'm really flattered. Yes, go ahead and add me to your blogroll.
Mary Beth

Anonymous said...

I cannot imagine what it is like to live with an autistic child. I have learnt more from blogs such as yours than I imagined possible. Thank you for sharing.

mommy~dearest said...

We have been in almost the exact scenario- with our "Autism Coordinator" as well. I found it frustrating that here was a "specialist" and she was restraining my son like an animal, of course, making him freak out more. The sad thing was, she was a part of his IEP meeting when we discussed his behavior plan and interventions.

Anonymous said...

Wow - reading this story was like a punch in the stomach! How lucky that you were there to intervene!! I worry all day long about what's going on with my son when I'm not there. We're in a brand new school and things seem to be going well. We shall see.

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