No Match For Love

“I’m sorry for not being patient.” “I will have a closed mouth in Science.” And my personal favorite — “I will be appropriate” (written 13 times). These are sentences my son had to write as a re-directive measure for a behavior that his teachers considered misconduct. Another explanation would be this is a punishment for something my son couldn’t help and because of the ignorance and the lack of training of his teachers, my son suffered. Callie, at that particular time and even now, does not comprehend the meanings of “appropriate” and “patient”, or even how to pronounce them. And “I will have a closed mouth?” Seriously? Do you not know my child at all? Have you bothered reading his IEP? Did you not learn about echolalia and the many sensory issues in Autism 101 training? Absent? Or maybe autism has been taught as an overview and not as an in depth discussion on the individuality of each chid. . . .the answers to the whats, whens, wheres and hows. . .and living by the fact that patience & compassion are vital accompaniments. Writing a sentence 13 times of which my son had no understanding was hair raising and beyond shocking, but his teachers not recognizing their wrong pretty much knocked me off my feet to a moment of silence. I then realized that my son was not surrounded by teachers like his grandmother who to this day has a passion for teaching but by ones with no heart and no real education of the field they said yes to. This kind of craziness was unfortunately in our schools and no one had noticed until the roar in my voice erupted, further fragmenting the silence that had circled me. A few years ago, I heard another story that took my breath away. Again it was centered around the absence of genuine kindness toward humanity and the omission of knowledge being applied & delivered appropriately. The story was heart-wrenching but at the same time, my whole being triumphed at the bravery and “nothing else matters” of a New Jersey father. His actions went beyond advocacy. His love for his son with autism shined. He let the world in on some key advice — you have to know your child, despite what others may portray them to be. You have to know your rights. And you have to fight until you are heard. The school kept telling this father how disruptive and uncontrolled his child was. This was baffling to the father seeing how at home his son showed a different image. What he saw versus the teachers’ claims were far off and between. It was like the child had two complete different personalities. I cried because this story was so unbelievably real to me, especially because we had a similar ongoing situation at the time. Callie’s teachers also insisted that he was disruptive and misbehaving. They further presented us with behavioral data collected to back up their accusations. But my husband and I knew Callie. Anybody who knows him knew who they were claiming Callie to be was not who he was. As with this New Jersey Dad, we had a lot of meetings with the Principal, the District officials, the Board of Directors and finally the State. Seemingly this was a battle that had planned on lingering for awhile, however this father did something that I wish we had thought about doing. He wired his son. His determination speaks loud and clear of his adoration for his son. The recorder came back with some rather disturbing statements. One paraprofessional would tell the child to “Shut Up!” whenever he cried. The teacher kept calling him a “bastard.” Beyond brutal doesn’t even touch the surface of these individuals who do not deserve to teach any child – special needs or not. I was saddened for many reasons. First of all, this child with autism endured such abuse on a day to day basis without the ability to defend himself. Secondly, many school districts lack adequate training for teachers and paraprofessionals which was obvious during our painful year of having heartless and detached personnel. They wanted our concerns to be a “poof. . .be gone” with one wave of a magic wand and an “Abracadabra!” all because we were unveiling something they had kept concealed for years. What they harbored under a rug of error and bad authority was this notion that the teachers were all well educated on autism and how to respectfully handle children with disabilities and their parents — when in actuality they were not. Third, I am sad because this father had to send his son to school knowing something was wrong, but did not have an idea of what that something was. He had to sit day after day, week after week and listen to school officials describe a boy he was not acquainted with. Fourth, I am both sad and livid that this father had to succumb to wiring his son for proof. . .for answers. And finally, I’m heartbroken, because being mistreated, bullied and abused has been overlooked so often when it comes to school professionals. These precious children, yes are bullied by their own peers but as parents, we do expect more from the staff and the administration. We want our children to be taught, cared for, believed in and safe. . .not intimidated, hurt. . .and then damaged. However my sadness meets happy at the fact that this father took action, like me and my husband did. They underestimated the power of the heart. They thought in both cases this was a fight, we as parents, would not win. Maybe because public schools are state/government owned. . . but oh so mistaken & misguided in thinking that this bit of information would matter. They didn’t count on going against something far bigger than any administrative building, position or status. They were no match for love. A parent’s love for their child surpasses understanding. We fight for what we believe in and guess what? We believe in our children. My husband and I fought for Callie. This New Jersey father fought for his son. Different situations. Hearts alike. We can only hope our actions will spark change, for it exceeds cruelty for any child to withstand such agony & ridicule and left feeling distraught, dispirited and dismissed. These are our children. . . our precious gifts who deserve more and to be treated as the valuable, treasured souls they are.

 
Thanks for listening,

Portia 

 

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