Tuesday, 22 March 2011

I Could If I Would But I Can't

At the core of the problem in today's school system of inclusion is "belief."  Our kids on the higher end of the autism spectrum disorder just look too good, therefore they can't possibly have deficits or needs.  They're a bunch of spoiled brats who don't pay attention and choose to throw temper tantrums to get out of doing their work.  They're a menace to the classroom and are constantly interrupting important lectures.  They refuse to fit in with the rest of the kids, and love to physically fight their class mates.  This is NOT true.  Unfortunately, this is pretty much what the current school system thinks of our kids. They don't BELIEVE that our children are "neurologically different."   Our kids can talk, walk, run, and sit just like the rest of the student body.  When they don't, the school staff believe that our kids don't do as expected by their own choice.

If our children wore leg braces, you'd have teachers and aids ligning up to help them, there would be no doubt as to their deficits and need for help.  People in general are just more apt to believe there's a problem when they can SEE the problem.  PDD-NOS is not something you can visually see, neither is high functioning autism or Aspergers.  When the problem is visual and obvious, people are just much more likely to HELP.  The presence of intelligence, strengths, and actual talents make it even harder for teachers to be believe there are real, concrete deficits.

No parent wants to think of segregating their child.  Segregation brings horrible pictures to mind of "No blacks allowed," and "whites only."  But the fact of the matter is, our kids are horribly misunderstood.  Who's fault is this?  Certainly not the parents.  Most parents are more than happy to share with their child's school things that work for their children and things that don't.  I know I most certainly do.  The problem is that the school staff really don't have the time to listen to what I have to say, as I am not an expert on the subject.  "They," on the other hand, are well meaning "professionals," who know what my child needs.  Their experience and expertise on what works on typical children is what they believe will work for my son.  And then they wonder why they have problems...

The most frustrating part of raising a child with a neurological difference, such as autism, aspergers and PDD-NOS, is not the child themselves...  it's trying to convince others the enormity of the child's deficits.  Deficit areas such as language (understanding rhetorical questions), sensory issues (Dayton can't certain sounds, for example music class is super painful for him, or the feel of new socks), theory of mind (thinking about how another person thinks or why they react they way they do, for example emotions), problem solving, anxiety, consistency in their scheduled days, social skills, play skills, motor issues (Dayton is 9, and he still can't tie his shoes because his fingers can't manipulate the shoe laces), spacial orientation (where the body is in space, for example co-ordination).

If inclusion in our school systems is to work, I think it is vital for them to understand these deficits and BELIEVE them.  Their disbelief is not only affecting our children, but the typical children as well.  Think about it.  If a busy classroom with colorful walls overstimulates my child and he has a melt down, it affects the entire classroom.  The one most affected is my child along with me, since he will now be suspended and I have to leave work to go and get him.  My boss is not pleased at all the work I am missing and my students also suffer the consequences.  When a teacher uses an idiom such as "hold your horses" and my son responds with "what horses?" the teacher automatically assumes Dayton is being disrespectful and sends him to the office.  Dayton of course throws a fit because he's answered her question and doesn't understand why he's being sent to the office.  I am called to pick him up AGAIN. 

By the time I get to the school, Dayton is furious, has punched the walls, pushed teachers and children out of his way because he's super frustrated at trying to understand what he's done wrong and no one is answering him.  He feels picked on and not important.  In his anger he screams, scaring the children around him.

Here's a perfect example of total and complete miscommunication between school staff and Dayton from last February:

Little Johnny has a hole in his back pack.  Dayton sees the hole and he just can't help himself...  He sticks his finger in the hole and rips the back pack further.  (Impulse control deficit, this is not an excuse, but an explanation as to why he did this).  Dayton's teacher and aid are standing across the room watching Dayton do this.  The teacher the approaches Dayton and asks him "Dayton, did you rip Johnny's back pack?"
Dayton:  "No."  (Language deficit.  Dayton has answered the question asked truthfully.  He is literal.  He did not rip the back pack, it was already ripped.  Dayton is not able to articulate this).
Teacher:  "Yes, yes you did, I watched you do it."
Dayton tries to back away from the teacher, but she follows.  In order to get away from her he moves a desk.  This is viewed as "aggressive behavior."  The aid now approaches Dayton from the other side and the two women figure they can corner him.  Can you see where this is heading?  

Dayton's throat was so sore, he couldn't talk or eat for a few days after the incident.  I had to force him to drink.  He had lots of smoothies and milkshakes as meals.  Naturally, I kept him home for those days.

Inclusion...  does it really work?  Not for us.  It's been a literal hell.  A facebook friend said it perfectly:  "There are two types of inclusion, genuine and cosmetic.  What our kids are getting most often is cosmetic inclusion.  They're in the classroom, and it all looks good, but that's about where it ends."

Consider yourselves hugged!



  1. Manitoba is supposed to be good for its autism diagnosis and resources for kids, so why are the schools so far behind? I really feel for your family, keep fighting the good fight, and maybe one day you will get through to someone!

  2. Manitoba is supposed to be good, but they're not. We moved from Calgary, and that was a huge mistake. Within 2 weeks of just the global delay diagnosis, we had speech therapy and occupational therapy in Dayton's daycare. We've lived in Manitoba for almost 5 years now, and I'm sad to say, the only service we've received is respite. The school system here has much to be desired for. In Alberta, they have charter schools, which are government funded and public. In Edmonton they have school of choice, one school division and one super intendant. Each school specializes in something, and it's up to the principals to "sell" their schools. Wouldn't it be nice if we had that system here?