Be The Voice

I watched something on Facebook today that made my blood boil. And before you ask, no, it wasn’t the latest fake Justin Bieber marketing scam or the pop-up ads presuming that because I am female and not a size zero I clearly have suicidal tendencies induced by lack of self esteem. Although those do come a close second. It was this: A hideous example of everything that’s wrong with provision for additional needs children in mainstream school; in actuality, a hideous example of how NOT to teach, in my opinion. A child of eleven, stuck in a classroom chair and left for at least ten minutes is bad enough. For a significant and responsible adult in charge to then film the incident takes it to a whole other level. Add in that this child also has autism and I genuinely wonder what the world is coming to. If any one of my children (‘normal’ or otherwise) was ever treated in that way I would have serious self restraint issues in not marching straight in and making my point with my fists and multiple profanities. Well, c’mon, you can take the girl out of the chavvy life, but you can never totally take the chav out of the girl ;)

The event itself is enough to shock and worry most parents and carers out there regarding the safety of children in school, but what astounded me the most was the lackadaisical response of the parents at the school where this occurred. If you watch the report you can see a father defending the actions of the teacher, and then later a mother claiming something along the lines of things perhaps being taken out of context. Tell me please; in what exact context is it OK for a child to be trapped, filmed, and asked if he wants to be tasered in front of an entire classroom full of peers? Am I missing something? Shift this to an adult based workplace context and I’m pretty sure someone would have a lawsuit on their hands; I mean this is America after all. The seemingly widespread apathy and even support for the teacher suggests an underlying remnant of culture we have worked so hard to erase; something ready to rear its ugly head at any given moment. Prejudice and discrimination to those who we perceive to be weaker than we are.

A very good friend rightly pointed out that we don’t know the bigger picture relating to this student and the situation, and I’d like to make it very clear right now my intention to speak out for the welfare of the child, and others like him, rather than waste my time vilifying the teacher involved. As a parent of a non-verbal child reports like this jump right out and punch me in between the eyes, a harsh reality check of the absolute and total vulnerability my boy is subject to every day when he leaves my side. Truth be told, it scares me to death sometimes. If I dwell too long on it horror scenarios tend to play out in my overly `active imagination; but I’d be living in fantasy land to think that my child is completely safe given he has no means of communicating to me what has happened during his day in my absence. All parents know that worrying comes with the territory, from the kids’ friendship choices to how many peas you’ve managed to coerce them into eating at dinner; from is-this-rash-a-deathly-meningitis-rash to have-they-permanently-tattooed-themselves-with-that-random-lone-Sharpie. You know something? I’d love to stress about those things for B. Because having cause to worry about those things would displace my current worries; the ones where I wonder exactly where that huge bruise has appeared from, or if anyone has treated him roughly that day, or why he has come home distressed, pinching, scratching and biting everyone in his path, or why he is screaming so much at situations he could normally handle. As such I must have the utmost confidence in the people I choose to care for my precious boy, which is why reports like this strike cold hard fear into my normally warm and fuzzy heart. The parents of the boy in this video were understandably upset at his treatment, and yet other reactions were apathetic. Maybe the boy is a known troublemaker at the school. Maybe the teacher is an excellent role model in all other areas of education and life. Maybe parents don’t want their school district attracting ‘that sort of attention,’ and so play down their reactions. In my opinion, none of these reasons hold weight in the tolerance and acceptance of such actions by a professional in a role of authority towards a child, let alone a child with a diagnosis of autism.

I need to know there are people in this world who will be B’s voice. As special needs parents our community so desperately need for regular people to advocate and raise awareness of potential harmful behaviour that could negatively affect our children. We are tired of people judging us, we’re tired of the lack of empathy and understanding; we’re tired of fighting for everything. Turning a blind eye or looking the other way when things like this happen is so dangerous for our kids. We need you. Like a desert needs rain, we need you. Please help create a safe world for our kids to play and grow in, more than tolerance; acceptance and advocacy for the most vulnerable among us. That way, we all win.

“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”

“A nation should not be judged on how it treats it’s highest citizens, but rather how it treats it’s lowest.” Nelson Mandela


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