For once, I was actually looking forward to going to the interview with Dayton's teacher. I really, really was! The principal, while calling me with concerns regarding Dayton's behavior, has been assuring me that Dayton has been doing so much better than last year and that he has been working much harder than he has in the past. Furthermore, Dayton had only had one in school suspension this year, as compared to being suspended and sent home for his suspension once a month like clockwork last year. So I was expecting things to go well...
Due to some recent emails flying about as a result of our CFS worker who is advocating on Dayton's behalf in the school system, I felt a little apprehensive about walking into this meeting alone. (Brenda, our CFS worker is forcing an IEP meeting with the school division's special needs coordinator and all involved in Dayton's education to be present. This will be the first time ever to have everyone together for Dayton's IEP meeting, which Dayton's school thinks is a waste of time). So I invited Diana, Dayton's social worker from Children with Special Needs and Disabilities to tag along with us. Thank God I did.
We get to the meeting on time, however Dayton's teacher is busy with other parents. No problem. Dayton is excited to show Diana and I his desk, so the three of us sit down and look through Dayton's portfolio. With the exception of a few sheets of math work, I see nothing new since our conference in November. There's a sheet of instructions for us to go to the gym for our child's video portfolio and then to the music class. The three of us go for our tour.
When we get to the gym, we're told Dayton has not done his video. Awkward... We leave the gym and head out to the music class. The door is locked. Awkward... Diana and I just kind of look at each other and tell Dayton to lead us back to his class to see what else we can find, crossing our fingers and hoping his teacher is available to see us now.
Mrs. D is waiting for us at the classroom door, and she's not smiling. U-oh... Should have been my first clue to run. The three of us sit around a little half circle table in tiny little chairs. I'm secretly wondering if I could quickly grab a second or a third one to make myself a little more comfortable. The teacher began by asking if I have any questions... Really? So I ask why Dayton's portfolio has little more than what I saw in November... She informs me that Dayton has done little work, preferring to play games and draw guns and play with paper figures. Whaaaaaaat???
Then she informs me that Dayton is a bully. Apparently my little man's been bugging one child in particular, on a regular basis, singling him out from the rest of the class. A little boy, little Johnny, yes the same one with the back pack I talked about in my last post titled "I would if I Could But I Can't.
Now, I have been aware that there has been a problem with this little boy in the past, as most of the phone calls I've received this year from the principal have been about Dayton and little Johnny. Dayton has flushed little Johnny's toy down the toilet, Dayton bit little Johnny, Dayton bent four of little Johnny's fingers backwards... Johnny, Johnny, Johnny... At home, I do what I call "Drawing Dayton's Story." I find it works well as Dayton is very visual, something very common with children on the spectrum. All you need is a piece of paper and pen and be able to draw stick men. That's about the extent of my artistic ability. You need to have some background information on the situation, and ask the child questions, limiting the questions to: who, what, where, when, and last question is how. Never ask why as they just don't seem to be able to answer this question. Whenever I ask Dayton "why," I always get an "I don't know."
Anyways, the last incident I had been aware of in terms of Dayton and Johnny, I drew Dayton's story out, then we drew a poster on bullying and wrote the word bully in a circle then drew a red line across it representing "no bullying." I have the poster on the wall in the hallway across from Dayton's bedroom door, so every morning he sees the poster when he opens his door. Since then, I had not heard any more bullying incidents. When I drew out his story, it turns out there are three other children that really dislike little Johnny, and unfortunately, Dayton is wanting these little boys' acceptance. Again, not an excuse, this is an explanation of what is going on in Dayton's mind. The difference with typical children is that they will stop, think and evaluate the consequences vs the action and then decide what to do. Dayton and most children on the spectrum don't have this ability if they have a deficit in impulse control as Dayton does. So when little Jeff tells Dayton to do something, Dayton does it, because little Jeff is Dayton's friend. He's not able to discern that little Jeff is taking advantage of Dayton and being entertained not only by little Johnny's misfortune, but also by Dayton's behavior and consequent punishment.
Getting back to Mrs D's concern of Dayton bullying little Johnny, I am dumbfounded. I ask why I haven't received an email from her with this concern? She tells me that if she had to email me of all of Dayton's behavioral issues, she would be writing a "Novella!" "Excuse me?! Are you suggesting that Dayton's behavior is impairing him from being "included..."
"Oh no, that's not it at all. Dayton is included in everything unless he chooses not to be." She completely misunderstood the intent of my comment, and yet she figures she's capable of understanding my child!!! Grrrrrr... She continues to tell me how if she was to email me on Dayton's behavior, all she would be doing is typing all day, and that I would feel picked on. I'm thinking how this would be different from the way she's making me feel right now, but whatever. She asks that I talk to Dayton about his behavior towards little Johnny. When I tell her that I have discussed this issue with Dayton in the past and that there are more children involved and began naming the said children, Mrs. D cuts me off and tells me that we're not going to discuss the other children and for me to discuss this further with Dayton at home. Well then! How am I supposed to explain what Dayton is thinking when you won't hear what I have to say?! Also, I need specific examples of Dayton's behavior which Mrs. D is not able to provide me with, other than Dayton walks up to little Johnny and flicks him in the head... That's it. No more information. What the hell am I supposed to do with that? Helllllllooooooo??? I can't just discipline Dayton for 3 months of behavior I can not describe to him and educate him how to do things differently!!!
So we go home. The ride home is very, very silent. I'm confused. What happened to all of Dayton's hard work the principal was telling me about? What the hell? Were we discussing my son or someone else? When we get home, I tell Dayton to sit down at the kitchen table and get ready to tell me his story. I pull out a sheet of paper and pen. I begin by drawing his classroom, which is a simple big box with the teacher's desk and the door to the classroom. And I begin the questions to finish the drawing of Dayton's story.
Where is your desk? Who sits beside you? Where is your teacher's desk? Where is little Johnny's desk? Who sits with little Johnny? What subject is it? How are you feeling? Who are you listening to? What is he/she telling you? When do you walk up to Johnny? Who do you pass by as you walk to him? What do you do? How does this make you feel? How does this make you feel? What does the class do when this happens? Who's crying? Who's happy? Who's sad? Who's laughing? As Dayton answers my questions, I start drawing his answers and always ask: "Like this?" to make sure I've got it right.
Dayton's story: Little Jeff asks him to flick little Johnny in the head every day. Little Jeff, Pete and Odie don't like little Johnny, and since Dayton practically worships these little boys, his perception is that the whole entire class doesn't like little Johnny. When Dayton's aid tells Dayton to get ready for the bus at the end of the day, Dayton walks around the aid, walks across the classroom to little Johnny, flicks him in the head, and all the children laugh. This enforces to Dayton that he is doing the right thing and that the kids like him. It is important to Dayton that he is liked and accepted, and he wants to be funny.
I do my best to explain to Dayton that there are other ways to be funny and liked. I convince him that telling jokes is funny. So off we go and buy some kid joke books. I find 3 that he says he likes, and buy them. Now to convince the school to allow Dayton to bring a joke book to school... Off to "Mission Impossible!"
So again... The idea of inclusion is a beautiful idea, but in reality, Dayton is experiencing cosmetic inclusion, not genuine, and believe you me, there IS a difference!!! And why is it that the school only give the cosmetic inclusion to our kids? Because they don't UNDERSTAND the autism spectrum! I somehow need to fix this!!!
Consider yourselves hugged!