Friday, 20 March 2015

Autism, School, Police and Handcuffs

Quickly everyone, sing the Sesame Street song with me: One of these things is not like the others.  One of these things just doesn't belong.

I was disturbed when I first heard about a nine year old autistic boy being removed from his class in handcuffs by the police.  Children and handcuffs don't really go together, it's one of the easiest shortcuts to show that someone is abusive: show them handcuffing a child.

The child had evidently become agitated and begun throwing desks, so I can understand the teacher's concerns and the need to resolve the situation quickly to keep everyone safe.  (Obviously it would have been better if the situation could have been avoided or redirected, but the reality is that it is not always possible.)

Calling the police would not have been my first choice.  I've talked before about the need to learn proper physical restraining techniques (here and here).

Schools are so paranoid about being sued that teachers aren't allowed to hug students, let alone learn techniques that could help them to contain the situation before it reaches desk throwing proportions.  It's a twisted situation when calling the police is more acceptable than giving a hug.  We need some common sense perspective again.

The parents of the boy are refusing to allow him to return to school until they have his records.  Again, I think that is a smart idea.  This situation did not occur in a vacuum.  There have probably been many incidents leading up to this.  To improve the situation, there needs to be total transparency about what has happened, what was tried and what did not work.  The school is resisting, again, I suspect out of a fear of being sued or made to look bad.

Guess what?  That ship has sailed.  The situation cannot be corrected if one of the parties is more interested in their reputation than in fixing the problem.  This is the part which makes me frustrated and more than a little fearful for my own children.

I've learned to put my ego aside (it isn't always easy) when it comes to my kids so that I have the opportunity to learn to do things better.  I need to be honest and admit when I am making mistakes or doing things which "look bad" in order to get better tools and better skills.  I've taken many smarting blows in my pride, but I've clawed my way to a better situation.

I think we'd all be better served if we cared more about the environment we are creating and the results we are getting than about the perceptions others have of us.

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