Thursday, April 3, 2008

Autism isn't a joke.

A tiny mention in the Herald Sun today, in the In Black and White column, mentions Steve Knott - who is chief executive of Australian Mines and Metals Association - breaking down in tears at a mining industry conference yesterday.
Steve Knott, you see, is the father of an autistic child.
With Education Minister Julia Gillard present, Mr Knott asked for autism to be taken seriously in the promised education revolution.

Because it certainly isn't considered very important at the moment.

At a homeschooling activity/social group last year I was confronted with many mothers of autistic children who had given up on mainstream schools...and that number has grown quickly since then.
The online groups, for Victoria alone, have hundreds of more parents in the same boat.

Why are autistic children being taught to cope with being bullied - in both the schoolyard and the school room?
Why are autistic children being labelled bullies when they simply stand too close to another child?
Why are autistic children being punished with detention and suspension from school when they have been punched and kicked to the ground and are trying to stop their attacker from hurting them any further?
Why has the education department made it near impossible for anyone considered mild on the Autistic Spectrum to have funded classroom help?
Why is a certain school refusing to follow the directives from both the family court and protective services in regard to a bully who preys on autistic children?
Why are the few fully-funded integration aides in schools being told to help every other child in the class/school, to the detriment of the one child they are funded to assist?

Why are teachers telling parents things like - they don't believe in the diagnosis their child has/ they don't have time to pander to "new age" labels/ they don't have any intention of keeping their struggling child down a grade because this will reflect poorly on the overall standard of the school/ they don't think the child has any need for integration aide help, etc.

Why are principals/head teachers refusing to report violent bullying/sexual abuse against autistic children?
Why are teaching assistants being told to question autistic children about their homelife should a parent ever lodge a complaint at the school?
Why are teachers refusing to use aids,books, phrases and techniques specifically recommended for autistic children by their specialist?
Why are teachers isolating autistic children in both the classroom and in playground activities?
Why has a certain school erased security videotape footage of an autistic child being raped in the school toilets by an older child?

The above is a tiny fraction of the things happening at not one but at least 12 different mainstream schools in Victoria that I have been told about, from those directly affected.

Take autism seriously?
Pfft, that's the biggest joke of all!

12 comments:

baby~amore' said...

Your post had me hooked to very end but I have no answers.I am incredibly sad and angered that this is happening.

I honestly don't know enough about autism so I can't imagine what it is like for you and other parents to be subject to this discrimination and your children the abuse.

Brian Hughes said...

I reckon one of the problems is that the term 'Autism' covers a wide ranging variety of conditions, some more extreme than others. Then again so does the term 'Nazi' when used in conjunction with ignorant headmasters.

Mr V said...

Decidedly angry post there, eh? So I take it there are no good stories about schools doing their best to help these kids? We've got about three or four at our school and they're generally looked after better than most of the regular kids. Almost to a point where the regulars start asking aloud why they don't get extra help when they're having trouble with some areas.

I understand your frustration, but in this case I think it may have tainted your post just a tad.

Meanwhile, all the best for the young feller, eh?

Cheers.

LiD said...

I'm so shocked Jayne. Speechless actually. There is something very wrong with a system that doesn't offer all children the right to flourish and be safe and respected. I really hope things can change for the better and as soon as possible. God, it makes me sad.

Jayne said...

Thanks Trish. No answers needed just an awareness.

Aye, Brian!

Mr V, I agree there are a few schools that I know of/have heard of where kids with special needs are made comfortable, secure and helped to excel,unfortunately they are in the minority.
I've simply stated facts parents (and a couple of paediatricians) have presented to myself and many others; while there is an element of anger, the post is factual.
And why shouldn't they be better looked after than regular kids when they are struggling in areas that come naturally to regular kids and need the laying of groundwork now to overcome further obstacles as they mature?

LiD, the system needs a major overhaul for all kids but in many cases it seems to be ignorance or a "don't care" attitude on the part of some teachers/principals in regards to special needs kids.

Widdle Shamrock said...

Over here, the few schools that are 'special needs' friendly, soon get exhausted as parents from everywhere try to get their child in. Teachers get burned out from lack of funding and inadequate support and so become not so 'special needs' friendly.

I come from a teaching family, from pre~school to secondary, and ALL encouraged me to homeschool. the ones who didn't were not the teachers. Where I go to church, once again, my biggest supporters are the teachers, some of whom have said to me 'There is not a place in schools for children like ** & **.'
The system overall is not geared for 'special needs' children. Yes, there are small pockets of schools that try and 'get it' but they are sadly few and far between.
This is my reality.

Kelley said...

Tears...

I am lucky. My school have been fantastic. But Boo is only in Grade 3, so who knows what the future will bring as he gets older and less 'manageable'

And I so hear you about the 'flavour of the month' attitude towards diagnosis.

steve knott said...

Yes I get emotional on this issue.
In one of the most expensive private schools in Melbourne, aware of Joshua's diagnosis, they were unable to provide a safe environment. Subject to repeated attacks from fellow students for being different, the final straw was when 3 kids cornered him and inflicted serious injury upon him. He has asperger's, trained to have 'safe hands', he looked me in the eye and apologised for being hit and scratched by the kids and said ' I'm sorry daddy I just couldn't get the words out'...you see these kids sometimes stammer when under pressure. He is in the top 5% in terms of 'smarts', not unusual for such kids.
We 'dismissed' the school and he is now in a safe school environment. The new school is sensational and Joshua will indeed be a star of the future.
My purpose of raising the autism issue with our Acting PM on Wednesday is to assist others. Family break-downs, kids being bullied, physcial abuse, drugged to the eye balls etc, the list goes on. Taking autism seriously requires a holistic approach. As a society we can provide much better and safer learning opportunities, family support and finanical assistance. The return on such investment will be substantial both in $ terms and societal outcomes.
Steve Knott

steve knott said...

Yes I get emotional on this issue.
In one of the most expensive private schools in Melbourne, aware of Joshua's diagnosis, they were unable to provide a safe environment. Subject to repeated attacks from fellow students for being different, the final straw was when 3 kids cornered him and inflicted serious injury upon him. He has asperger's, trained to have 'safe hands', he looked me in the eye and apologised for being hit and scratched by the kids and said ' I'm sorry daddy I just couldn't get the words out'...you see these kids sometimes stammer when under pressure. He is in the top 5% in terms of 'smarts', not unusual for such kids.
We 'dismissed' the school and he is now in a safe school environment. The new school is sensational and Joshua will indeed be a star of the future.
My purpose of raising the autism issue with our Acting PM on Wednesday is to assist others. Family break-downs, kids being bullied, physcial abuse, drugged to the eye balls etc, the list goes on. Taking autism seriously requires a holistic approach. As a society we can provide much better and safer learning opportunities, family support and finanical assistance. The return on such investment will be substantial both in $ terms and societal outcomes.
Steve Knott

steve knott said...

Yes I get emotional on this issue.
In one of the most expensive private schools in Melbourne, aware of Joshua's diagnosis, they were unable to provide a safe environment. Subject to repeated attacks from fellow students for being different, the final straw was when 3 kids cornered him and inflicted serious injury upon him. He has asperger's, trained to have 'safe hands', he looked me in the eye and apologised for being hit and scratched by the kids and said ' I'm sorry daddy I just couldn't get the words out'...you see these kids sometimes stammer when under pressure. He is in the top 5% in terms of 'smarts', not unusual for such kids.
We 'dismissed' the school and he is now in a safe school environment. The new school is sensational and Joshua will indeed be a star of the future.
My purpose of raising the autism issue with our Acting PM on Wednesday is to assist others. Family break-downs, kids being bullied, physcial abuse, drugged to the eye balls etc, the list goes on. Taking autism seriously requires a holistic approach. As a society we can provide much better and safer learning opportunities, family support and finanical assistance. The return on such investment will be substantial both in $ terms and societal outcomes.
Steve Knott

Mr V said...

I find it disappointing there don't seem to be that many schools prepared to work with these kids as you claim. There's not a single public primary school in my town (and I believe the district, but I can't speak for those outside of this particular town yet) that doesn't have a strong integration program running. Yep, there are still kids that could benefit from it that aren't being funded yet (backlog, it would seem), but each of the kids gets what they need. I find it disappointing that this apparently isn't happening as widespread as it probably should.

As for regular kids not getting help (or, as I meant to imply, attention) when they see these integration kids receiving it around the clock (where funding allows it), I'm not saying they need it. But tell a kid why they have to wait in a line of fifteen to get assistance from my when there's an integration aide in the room who can help just as well but is seen to be only there for one kid. Kids don't get that.

Anyway, carry on. I'll keep reading with interest! :)

Cheers.

Jayne said...

Widdle Shamrock, thanks for your input, it's interesting to hear how the system works,or rather, doesn't outside of Australia and how these hard decisions are influenced and made.

Kelley, as you know only too well- that fear for our kids' future is something we take to bed with us every night and wake up to carry around every day.
We can only hope and try to change the system for the future so Boo and other kids have a certain happy school life to look forward to each day.

Steve, thank you for your input. Joshua's story has brought not a few tears to some of the readers.
I fully agree with you ; the hidden costs of the system failing our kids is immeasurable as it sends out ever-increasing ripples to effect many people and areas outside the immediate family.

Mr V, there are plenty of schools who say they are prepared to work with integrating autistic kids into the school community but the gap between theory and practice seems to be incredibly wide, the width depending on funding and teachers and principal's attitudes.
The changes to funding, several years ago, left 7 kids in one class floundering without any integration aide help, so the principal directed the aide from another class to assist, taking her away from the child she was funded to help.
The principal's rationale was "that kid can cope on his own, he doesn't need the aide". Those 7 kids flourished while the autistic kid fell in a heap, his grades dropped and he had difficulty coping in the class.
No, that wasn't my son but the son of a friend who repeatedly questioned this decision to no avail until she removed her child from school.
The principal became angry and threatened to report her to the ed dept because those 7 kids weren't eligible for funding and without her funded son at the school, the school had to honour the integration aide's contract out of their own pocket. I also had a similar comment thrown at me when I removed FB from school.

There are far too many message boards and forums online detailing how the system is failing autistic kids and their school peers.
Had even 2 of those 7 kids been able to be funded, then there would have been 8 happy kids learning rather than 7 kids struggling and 1 now homeschooled.

ShareThis