Sunday, May 3, 2009

Autism Diaries IX: punishing children for organizational disability

If my son earns low grades in English, it should be because of his difficulties with English, not his difficulties with organization.

And yet, a pile of papers has come back full of low grades based on work J didn't hand in and quizzes he didn't study for. Once again, it turns out he's not turning in all the work he's completed, and not taking home all the quiz notifications and study materials that his teachers are giving out.

At the last meeting two months ago, I thought we'd resolved this. We agreed that I could re-organize J's backpack into a series of two-pocket, "in"/"out" folders, color-coded by subject. We agreed that one of the two people assigned to work specifically with him during the school day would ensure that assignments, notifications, and study materials make it into and out of that backpack.

Last week's meeting was a completely different story. It was as if they'd all gotten together ahead of time and decided they'd had enough. In any case they informed me, repeatedly and at high volume:
1. that J needs to take more responsibility and so those low grades are appropriate.
2. that they've done all they can at their end.
3. that they've already made a tremendous number of accommodations for J.
4. that every time J gets a grade I dislike, I ask them to change it, and I need to stop doing this.
5. that it's my job to call in when things don't come home.
6. that I should mark my calendar to call up the school every Monday if the vocabulary words don't come home.
7. that I need to take more responsibility.

No matter how often I returned, at equally high volume, to my points:
1. Organizational skills are part of his disability that should be accommodated in his IEP.
2. No kid should be dependent on his mother's memory in order not to get a 2 out of 8 on a vocabulary quiz.
3. How hard is it to make sure J puts things in his backpack and takes things out of his backpack?
...the English/home room teacher repeatedly interrupted me with with shouts and gestures of "Stop, Stop!" followed by a verbose repetition of her points.

Her lack of professionalism is understandable, in that this is the same teacher who:
1. gave J a D on a Personal Timeline assignment because she didn't think the events he chose were sufficiently "important."
2. (or so eyewitnesses tell me), walked into the classroom at her first Back to School night wearing flipflops and chewing gum, and then told the parents that their kids shouldn't come to school wearing flipflops and chewing gum.

But lack of professionalism can be expensive. For the first time in about 6 years, I will be calling on my disability lawyer.


Mrs. C said...

Sock it to 'em!!!! We've so, so, so BTDT with G. We just don't have that kind of money.

I read this post to D. We associate!! Praying for ya. Keep posted!

PS Terribly sad post, but we did laugh at the call when something doesn't come home thing. IT's just too TRUE!!!

You don't happen to live in Missouri, do you???

Anonymous said...

My daughter has a minor disability by comparison - a hand amputation and faces daily problems at school from teachers and students. She has organizational issues - it takes her longer to put things away and read from a book while answering questions. A PE teacher she hardly knew took to calling her 'little ms one arm' I promptly stopped that. Another girl called her a freak. My friend also an amputee calls it racism because he says he experienced it all through his schooling.

Its not a wonder that my daughter avoids school and currently we are trying alternative programs. We're not hopeful. I'm a single parent, so I can't home school (she's won't follow a schedule) and regrettably now she is going to move to a different state to live with friends.

Its stories like this that make you very cynical about people in general. Its difficult for me to understand how some people can live each day with themselves without having even some empathy or care for others. Is there a word like anti-humanism?

Lori said...

Oh, Lefty!

You and your family have been through so much! I can't imagine that it is too difficult to make sure things get into your child's backpack! Does the school have any way to communicate assignments, vocab lists, upcoming tests and quizzes digitally? AHHHHH Hang in there!

EquiisSavant said...

I am a savant adult with high functioning autism. I could not begin to describe my struggles with autism in my life to achieve a law degree in a short blog post space. I was outed with autism when I graduated law school and tried to get my Calif. attorneys license. Neither Calif. nor Florida will license me because of their fear and stereotypes about autism. Sadly, the attitudes you are describing of the school and teachers is also entrenched in our state and federal court systems. Autism is too much trouble for other folks to deal with. I have give it much thought (and done 20 years of research), and I have finally concluded that a person with autism with a PET or other scan objectively showing the autism impairments affect their auditory, language, and/or social-emotional centers of the brain, doesa not, in fact, speak the same version of the English language as the other NT brain types. If a person studies languages, only small nuances between some languages, such as Spanish vs. Italian or different dialect of Arabic, can result in two speakers using such different versions of language that really what is required is an interpret who can speak both versions of the language. People with autism do not use or code their use of languaeg teh same way, and notably many of the social-emotion congition words are left out when they speak. It is my belief that this, together with the different physiological brain wiring, results in a situation where people with autism will NEVER be understood or able to make themselves understood to to others without autism, unless there are drastic changes in the way things are done in our schools and legal system. Unfortunately, people with autism are a politically poweless class of people, who most neurotypicals delight at making the new slave class by limiting folks with autism to being stock shelvers, janitors, and toilet wipes -- menial jobs NTs refuse to do, without regard to a person with autism's ability to be, say a doctor, accountant, bank president, lawyer, or other much more highly paid and dignified employee. It is very sad to see that our "civil rights" President not only insulted LFA people by his Special Olympics slur, but turned right around and is instulting the HFA people by suggesting not one signle diagnosed person with autism could qualify to become the next Supreme Court justice pick due to targeting the "empathy" quotient deficit criteria of autism. Without people with autim ever having access or the ability to enter the legal profession, become politicians, or become a next Supreme Court Justice, even a President, autism rights and the sad fate of people with autism will continue to be decided by people of a completely different brain wiring who do not speak the autism language who are not autism's peers.

Nancy Bea Miller said...

So, does J need to take more responsibility or do you need to take more responsibility? They can't have it both ways.

Call your lawyer and get that IEP re-written! Because if they feel unable to accommodate J's special needs, then they need to find you an appropriate private placement.

lefty said...

Thanks for your thoughts, everyone! I'll keep you posted.