Learning the System #autismawareness

Every country, state, county, school district has its own system for dealing with children with special needs. In our area there are many services available to parents, but you have to work hard to gain access to them. You also have to know where to go and who to talk to, or you end up getting whatever the “system” has to offer.

Today we finally met up with a group we met on Meet-Up. They are a group of families with kids on the spectrum who are trying to find social opportunities for their children, as well as to connect with other mom’s and dad’s who are dealing with similar issues. It was a fun day. I learned that I am very well educated on our local system. Part of that is because I married a teacher. The other half of that is because I am relentless when it comes to research and finding resources. I may not access them all, but I like to know what is available. It also helps that before my son was diagnosed, I spent a lot of time with an amazing mom who had worked the system for years to get her child the best care possible. Watching her was inspiring and informative.

One of the moms I connected with today is from another country. Her child has an aide at school. While he is in a regular classroom, they have to hand him off from aide to aide as he is likely to run away. He also has meltdowns, which the aide physically intervenes and holds him tightly, so tightly she has left bruises. He does not like this aide. Neither do I, and I have never met her. The other disturbing fact that I learned was that when he refuses to do his work, he is sent to the office to work, and there are days when he does nothing at all. I wanted to cry. Don’t they know how to help kids like him, won’t they work with him? If my son had any part of those situations occurring I would be there advocating for him to be moved either to a different classroom or a different school. I would insist that the aide be replaced, and that his IEP was revised. No child should come home from school bruised from being held too tightly.

I have worked with countless children with disabilities. I have spent time in classrooms, one-on-one, and with my own child. I have never held a child so hard I left a mark. I have never had to restrain a child in that manner. I would never try to restrain a child in that manner. I have been hit, kicked, bit, pushed, spit at, elbowed, and physically attacked by children. I know how to block their attacks. I know how to safely keep them in one area while they calm down, and I know how to take them to the ground and hold them without hurting them if necessary, and I have never been formally trained. Supposedly this aide has. Our children should never be hurt by the adults put in place to protect them!

My best friend has a son with disabilities who was verbally abused and harshly treated in pre-K. As a result, his development was severely delayed and his and his parents’ ability to trust were forever altered. He could not go home and tell his mom about the treatment so it was only the revelation of a teacher at the school that even clued the parents in to the abuse. Physical, verbal mistreatment, and rough handling are NOT ok. These kids are sensitive. They may not know why there person is hurting them, but they react strongly to being hurt. My son cried for almost 45 minutes this week because his teacher asked him to cut back on reading a favored book, and to focus more on the books he needed to read for school. Their worlds are so easily sent into chaos, and that is when we see them stim, or act out. It is not because they are bad, or need better discipline. They need help adjusting to the situation or stimulus, or the work is too hard. There are so many other reasons that our kids have issues, we do not to create more by allowing the adults in their lives hurt them in any way.

My plea for today, is to watch for signs of abuse or mistreatment in your child. It is common, and it is acceptable to some, or even expected because they are the “professionals”, but it is not okay. If your child is experiencing any of the above, fight for them, or find an advocate group to help. If you are the one mistreating these children either out of ignorance, or frustration, or malicious intent, get help. Find other ways to deal with the situation and your own frustration.

These children can be the most loving, sweet, amazing, and inspiring children that you ever meet if given the chance. Be playful, find their strengths. They all have them. Take the time to find what works for them, and what soothes them when they get overwhelmed. The benefits are amazing, and their progress will astound you.

Photo: mattbeckwith/Flickr