Sunday, June 1, 2008

Autism and Inclusion

Yet another discussion at Inside Ed that I felt I had to comment on. Seems like the same issue is a Hot Document at Slate.

A quick synopsis - A kindergarten teacher in Florida felt overwhelmed by an autistic student in her class. After having him sent to the office she decided that she (and the class) weren't ready for him to return. When the vice-principal sent him back to his class the teacher made him stand at the center of the class and listen to his classmates tell him why they didn't want him there. She then lead a vote and by 14 to 2 he was voted out. He spent the day in the nurse's office. That day he didn't eat and since has been unwilling to go back to school.

I tried to re-tell this dispassionately with just the facts in the police report on Slate. I am anything but dispassionate about this story. This makes me angry beyond words. Perhaps the teacher was overwhelmed and untrained, but this is mental abuse. As a parent of a special needs child I want my child to succeed in society, and I know the best way to do this is to move him back into general education as soon as I can. But will I be subjecting my child to this kind of abuse?

Clearly some teachers think of special needs kids as a burden to them and their "normal" students. There are so many ways that they are wrong. My child taught his classmates that just because you don't talk doesn't mean you can't think. My child gave a youngest child in a big family the opportunity to be a big sister, which gave her great joy. My child's pictures and music have amazed many. When we pulled him/her out of general education my first thought was - "Your loss!"

So what's the answer? Well, we'll try general education again, but this time I know that the teacher and school really believe in inclusion. Since we can't get verbal responses to "What happened at school?" we'll be there observing and asking questions. We'll help and support in any way we can. And we'll keep our fingers crossed. And if it doesn't work, we'll try something else.

Seems like working, trying and hoping - no other choice as far as I can see.


  1. This story made me incredibly angry and sad, as well. I am a fairly new parent, and in the honeymoon stage of Babyville. The thought of someone doing something so meanspirited to a little one just breaks my heart.

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