Susan's Blog

Friday, January 26, 2007

What Would Solomon Do?

Yesterday I was interviewed at length by the Christian Science Monitor about the events at Lincoln-Sudbury High School, particularly my thoughts on the exclusion of children with “aggressive” profiles. I gave the reporter a lesson in special education 101, explaining Least Restrictive Environment, which is the law of the land last I checked. Even with the bone-headed way the IDEA was reauthorized last year by a conservative-dominated Congress, LRE remains intact, which means that school systems must try to give all children access to the general curriculum to the greatest degree possible in their neighborhood schools. Inclusion is the law, lest we forget.

Getting special needs kids out of a school setting due to disruptiveness is also attached to a specific legal process, called Manifestation Determination, whereby it must be proven that a series of disruptions have not been related to the child’s disability. If the volatile behavior is found to be related to the disability, by virtue of a process called FBA, Functional Behavioral Analysis, then the team has to meet to discuss placement. The child can be removed temporarily but not permanently, I believe, until the team has agreed on such (including the parents).

If weapons are involved, a child can be removed, regardless of disability. So in the case of John Odgren, the school has the right to remove him. In the case of my Nat, they did not have that right. Nat’s FBA determined that his outbursts (hitting, pinching, pulling hair) were due to the environment of the classroom and its lack of direct behavioral support for him (poor darling). He felt out of control, the staff treated him as out of control and did not control their responses to him, and thus he became out of control. He learned aggressive behavior there, in that inadequate setting.

Although they share the same spectrum disorder, Odgren is a completely different case, from what I can tell. Reports say that he talked about weapons a lot. This should have been a red flag, but then again, one wonders to what degree he understood the impact his words had on others, considering his Asperger’s Diagnosis. One school official somewhere once said to me that he nearly suspended a kid who talked about bombs, only to find out that this kid had AS and did not quite realize how his words were making others feel. An investigation determined that this child was not a threat, and so he wasn’t.

People can sometimes tell when a child really understands the impact of his statements; but not always. That is the risk here. What we do about it is a question suitable for Solomon.

That is why I took issue with what parts of what the AANE said and did not say. By making the beginning of their statement be all about how violent behavior is not a part of the Asperger’s profile, they almost seem to be saying — and I’m sure they don’t realize this — that this boy was not one of their’s. Let me state, for my conscience’s sake, that I think the AANE is a great organization that has helped a lot of people for many years. Just today I found out that they are hosting a series of forums for helping people with AS talk about and deal with this issue. But still, regarding this tragedy at Lincoln-Sudbury High School, I wish they had said something more like this:

“Even though it is not part of the usual profile for people with AS to be violent, we want to remind others that even disabled people who do exhibit violent tendencies need help, first and foremost, rather than scorn or ostracisim. We believe in the possibility of therapy and rehabilitation, employing proper and humane strategies to ease these difficulties, in any child, neurotypical or not. We do not advocate exclusion for the longterm of such children because they need to learn from non-violent role models and be exposed to real-world challenges, but in a supportive environment.

We also wish to remind the general public that for the most part, people with AS and on the autism spectrum are more often than not the victims of bullying and threats at the hands of non-AS people, rather than the perpetrators. It is up to educators to take responsibility for such behavior and set up programs aimed at stopping it.”

–Susan Senator, Autism Mothers Inclusive (AMI)



After a year of watching the legal system do absolutely nothing to help a friend’s child who was abused by his special ed teacher, I wrote about it today on my blog. I wanted to pass it on to you.

If it was the child engaging in such acts he would have been placed on suspension, but the teacher was allowed to keep abusing him for nearly a year.

— added by Anonymous on Friday, January 26, 2007 at 10:24 am

What a shame that an organization that claims to represent people on the spectrum gives such a lame response (he’s not ours!).

Then, whenever someone unfamiliar with the range of different responses that someone on the spectrum might exhibit sees something that they think is remotely aggressive, they immediately assume it must be one of those “violent ones” that need to be weeded out.

Thanks for taking the time to educate the public thru your interviews that:
-people on the spectrum may look different, and may be interpreted as being violent when they aren’t,
-the law says that they are to be included,
-proper supports and understanding allow the vast majority to be included, and
-ethics and human decency demand that we do so.

— added by Anonymous on Friday, January 26, 2007 at 12:02 pm

Susan, I thought would weight in from a different, though not necessarily conflicting point of view.

Indeed it requires the wisdom of Solomon to figure out the right thing to do.

Up here in NH, the legislators totally embraced inclusions. From their perspective, it meant they could put the special needs kids in the mainstream classrooms and not have to pay for any special programs!

My 3 Kids, who are all NT (whatever the hell that means), would spend most of their time sitting on their hands while the totally overwhelmed teachers dealt with the disruptive students.

The end result, for my family, is that they all went to private schools, at great expense. Fortunately for us, we could afford that expense.

We cannot mandate inclusion without mandating adequate funding to make it work.

To me that is the crux of the issue. In my opinion, the way public schools are funded is totally broken.

My .02

— added by Anonymous on Saturday, January 27, 2007 at 2:51 pm

%d bloggers like this: