Saturday, January 24, 2009

Lack of common sense or lack of interest? About 8 year old autistic girl arrest

I’m sorry but have you seen Common Sense? I can’t seem to find it out there and frankly it has me scared to death for my autistic children.

I could so easily be talking about a lot of the headline news; sometimes it’s just enough for me to suck down my morning coffee without chocking on the latest heartbreaking news. But, today, I’m primarily focusing on the backlash of last week's story of the 8-year-old girl with Asperger syndrome (AS) who was arrested and sent off to be charged with battery (later dropped).

Children with AS usually do not have intellectual disabilities and, therefore, are more easily mainstreamed into typical classroom (sometimes not so easily) -- and sometimes require an aide for classroom support and behavior modification. Apparently, the teacher in this little girl's school didn’t understand autism and some of the behaviors associated with the disorder (or at least didn’t appear to) and, in this case, the child may have exhibited sensory issues: the child wanted to wear her hoodie (hooded sweatshirt) which was also a cow outfit and the teacher wanted her to remove it and the child became behavioral and started hitting the teacher. Now I don’t like hearing about this sort of situation anymore than anyone else who has autistic kids--because--for some of us--it really does hit home and it’s upsetting and scary as hell. But as I was looking further into the opinions (commenters) of the story, I noticed that “some” people believe that the teachers had no choice in the matter, as in saying--the teacher and school did the right thing, and then had some harsh words for the child.

Clearly some people don’t understand autism, but do you really have to understand autism to know that it wasn’t the right thing to do?

I was stunned that someone would even think that having the child arrested was actually an option -- but then again, the school officials and the teachers also thought that it was the “only option” or “right thing to do” or “protocol” or “by the book.” I don’t care how you say it. And to further stun those with actual common sense, the child was charged with battery -- an underage 8-year-old autistic child who weighs 50 pounds. And let’s not even start to identify the emotional trauma that she might have walked away with after, um, leaving jail…. So let’s recap: 8 year old who doesn’t completely understand the world around her was taken away in handcuffs by police officers (who also like to “work by the book”) and whisked away from the only people she knew and probably not knowing if she would ever see her mother again …

In this abc news article the child’s mother said:

"She started screaming 'Mommy, I don't want to go! What are batteries? What are
batteries?'" Towry said. "She didn't even know what she was arrested for."

And back to the fact that this child weighs, what -- just about 50 pounds -- could even be considered a threat to grown adults and would warrant such treatment.

A very interesting fact about an incident like this is that it has happened before....

I certainly understand that business and organizations have rules to follow; hell, one of the assignments that I had last year was to write a Policy and Procedure manual for a new business… so I am one who knows, understands and appreciates why there are rules to follow and procedures to carry out… but in this case?

And furthermore, rules are designed in black and white … there’s no grey area or when and where to follow good judgment and some good, old fashioned “common sense?”

Perhaps the use of common sense should be enforced, too.

Or perhaps it’s not about common sense but simply not wanting to deal with the child with special needs--an “undesirable” student? From the information that I found in Writeslaw website, (special needs advocates) this seems to be the schools way of thwarting their responsibilities of ‘dealing with kids with disabilities.” I’m not a lawyer, but if you are, please weigh in your thoughts.

Let me just say that if Nick was taken away in handcuffs because he yelled at the teacher or shoved someone because they made him mad (which could easily happen--his emotions have a way of getting ahead of him, and, since communication is lacking due to his "disorder"...) being arrested would ruin him (and for a mistake) and he would have a very hard time recovering from such a trauma ...

And you all know that Meghan has hit and shoved her teachers before, but the teachers and school officials know this as a behavioral issue due to her disability and lack of communication skills, they would never have called the police... Nonsense. Instead, we found her a new school with teachers and staff who are trained to handle her behaviors and help her... Not ruin her.

We want to help kids, not ruin them..

Feel free to share your own thoughts about this situation?

Here is the full story from ABC News


Tanya @ Teenautism said...

You are so right about the lack of common sense, Holly. I still can't wrap my mind around the fact that an 8-year-old ASD child was handcuffed and arrested. It boggles the mind and is scary for all special-needs parents. You would think by now there would be more understanding about ASD behaviors and better ways to handle them. This is a huge step backward while we're trying to mainstream our children. If they'll do that to an 8-year-old, what will they do to a 14-year-old?

Goodness. My word verification is "undeed."

Maddy said...

Of course they HAD to drop the charges because any idiot worth their legal socks knows that battery would require 'intent' in this instance. There again I don't know enough about the specifics to be a legal eagle.

And yes, I took a gasp when I first read about it. This is one of the many reasons that I love the special education services that my own children receive, where the teachers are professionals dedicated to all of our children, flexible and open minded in their approach, with a healthy dollop of wiley and humour.
Best wishes

babs m said...

This is why it's really important to have a Functional Behavior Assessment of your mainstreamed child so that the shortcomings and need for alternative discipline are clearly marked and in his or her file right up front. We're having one done of the Captain now, because he's already starting to run into behavioral issues with peers--not teachers yet, thank heaven.