Monday, September 22, 2008

What We Need To Know and Teach Our Kids

I hope that you never have to meet abuse. Not only for yourself, but, especially, for your kids. I think there is nothing more hostile than abusing a child—physically and verbally, because there is no difference—one bruises the skin but they both bruise the spirit and the soul.

Abusing a child is cowardly; abusing an autistic child who cannot speak to defend him/herself is unconscionable.

Once upon a time, I didn’t know that my daughter’s bus driver was verbally abusing her. I didn’t see the warning signs—I should have.

She would get on the bus just so early that I thought her hesitations were more about the ungodly hour, not the ungodly monster driving the bus.

One day I drove to her school at the same time that I knew her bus would be arriving. I parked across the parking lot and watched her bus from afar. I rolled down my window and listened; not sure what I would be listening for, but I think there are just some parental instincts that just seem to take over. Did I actually think that I would hear or see something horrible? No! I really didn’t think I would. But when I heard the screaming coming from the bus and saw the driver hovering over Meghan, I became paralyzed.

My body pretty much just shut down for those few seconds; I couldn’t breathe; I couldn’t move; I just sat there for those brief seconds taking it all in: Stunned. Shocked. Distressed. All my fears were coming true; no matter how much time I had spent advocating, protecting, and fighting for her rights: my non-verbal child was being abused.

I got out of my car and walked over to the van and told my daughter to come out. I grabbed hold of her and hugged her (at that age, I could still pick her up and carry her) and told the bus driver what I had heard and seen—and told her exactly what I thought of her: I called her “an abuser,” and that she should look for another line of work.

I told everyone, from school personnel to the bus company, what I had witnessed: that the driver lost control and screamed in Meghan’s face to stay in her seat (even though the van was already parked) and, remarkable and unfortunately, no one “seemed” that surprised, and the bus company would simply replace Meghan’s driver—but not dismiss her from being a driver. (“No thank you, I’ll drive her!”)

Not long after that incident, another incident occurred at the same school. Another parent was walking down the hall with me after we had volunteered together in our children’s classroom—she had an autistic son. She looked at me as if she wanted to tell me something but was holding back, until she finally said: “I have to tell you something that I had witnessed.” She told me that a few days ago one of the aides was sitting outside the classroom with Meghan (Meghan was obviously non-compliant) and the aide said to her (and in front of Meghan), “Meghan is being a bitch today.”

Again, another moment added to my reservoir of pain. I could neither breathe nor move; as if I had just been punched in the stomach and I was bravely trying to recover. I thanked her for telling me and told her that it was the right thing for her to do; because, she told me that she was wavering on whether or not to even tell me. Interesting!! The next day I officially withdrew Meghan from that school, even though we had no other school to attend—at least at that moment. (Oddly enough, it was a school with a good reputation.) I told the school psychologist what I had heard and he was notably shocked and disgusted; but, to this day, all I know is that both the teacher (who was not talented either) and all the aides were demoted to a preschool class at the end of that school year. I know nothing else.

I know all too well about the realities of a non-verbal child, or an adult, becoming a victim of abuse (both verbally and physically) and it horrifies me (as it does you). And I just want to lock my daughter in her room and protect her forever—but I can't do that, now can I? It happens more than we think; in a lot of cases, it remains silent and unpunished.

1 comment:

Tanya @ TeenAutism said...

What a horrible thing to happen to your daughter! When my son was non-verbal, I remember being shocked and sickened when I discovered bruises on his thighs - they were the size of the placement of adult fingers that looked like they had been holding him down. And he couldn't tell me who had done it. I felt so angry and helpless.

Kudos to you for writing about such a difficult topic. Best wishes.