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