A Difficult Autism Experience

A Difficult Autism ExperienceA Difficult Autism Experience

I recently spoke with an AutMom who had this experience…

Her nine-year-old son with autism attends a local elementary school. For about a year or two, her son was having difficulty with an obsession—a peer. A girl peer. Her son was convinced that this girl was his girlfriend. He was in this girl’s class for a year, and the next year the school separated them.

The school felt it had to make this change because it appeared (to them) that the woman’s son was stalking the girl.

The boy’s behavior did not improve regarding this girl. It got to a point that he was waiting outside the Girls bathroom for the girl to appear.

The school decided to act (without the parent’s permission). They began to lock up the boy in a classroom during recess and lunch. They confined him there for those entire periods. The boy would cry and beg to be let out, but the school would not let him out until the end of the periods. 

When the parents found out, they were stunned. They took their son out of school.

The mom talked to the principal, who confirmed that they were locking up the boy to keep him from bothering the girl during recess and lunch (when he was on his own—unsupervised).

The mom, who knew that they had been struggling with this issue for over a year, asked the school for an aide. She argued that if her son had an aide, the aide could teach her son how to avoid the girl.

The principal said he couldn’t do that.

What did I tell the AutMom?

A few things.

One, it was completely unacceptable of the school to lock up her son.

Yes, none of this was the girl’s fault. She had done nothing wrong (that I knew of, and the parent agreed).

Yet, it also wasn’t the boy’s fault, either. The boy has autism. Autism often comes with obsessive behavior. This boy is nine-years-old.

To me, the school was blaming her son and putting a band aide on the problem—a very disturbing band aide. I shudder whenever I hear a child with autism is being locked up for any reason.

Two, the mom informed me that she was considering home schooling her son, at least for a short period of time, in order to give the school “a break.”

I told her that if she took that option, don’t do it on a permanent basis.

Three, I encouraged the AutMom to call an emergency IEP. Whether she decided to home school or not.

This is important because of the direction the school has taken this issue. I told her to not let them get away with it.

And, if/when she allowed her son to return, the IEP should be in place that addresses this specific issue.

How?

At the IEP, I advised her to request an aide for her son.

Insist on it.

Don’t sign the IEP until she gets it.

The basis for this request is that the school’s solution to this problem was wrong and harmful. It cannot happen again. An aide is needed as soon as possible for the stability of both the school and the child.

The bottom line for me is…

The school cannot punish this woman’s son for his behavior. Not this behavior and not that punishment.

This boy doesn’t really understand that he’s doing something wrong. His parents can talk to him at home and the principal can talk to him in his office, but in the moment, (when he struggles to control his impulses), this child’s obsession will take over. A child that age struggles with his/her impulses.

If an aide is there, that aide can alleviate some stress the girl might be experiencing by redirecting the boy’s behavior. 

An aide can monitor him in the yard during recess and lunch, instead of emotionally damaging him because he doesn’t understand why he’s being locked up.

What happened?

I’ll let you know. I only spoke to that AutMom once, that original phone call, but I asked her to try to let me know how it all worked out.

I cheered on the AutMom, realizing she was a strong person and experienced advocate for her son.

This story is disturbing to me. Unfortunately, this was not the first time I had heard of similar situations.

I know many schools (officials and teachers) who work well with our autism students. Many of them would never take such an extreme measure. They understand that the student with autism is just as important as any other typical student. All equally.

This example of a school’s decision should not be tolerated. I hope it works out for the school, this boy, and his family. The situation needs a re-think, and an apology to this family.

A Difficult Autism Experience

Here’s a good article about how to advocate before and after your child’s IEP:

http://specialed.howard-autism.org/advocating-for-your-child-before-and-during-the-iep-meeting/

 

More on Kimberly Kaplan:

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A Difficult Autism Experience