Antipathy Between School Districts and Parents of Autistic Children
Feeling left behind: One mother of an Autistic child, numerous school districts, and the strong antipathy between them.
It’s implicit that some parents have a hard time following why parents of autistic children moan about schools. It’s more perspicuous that parents of autistic children, in turn, envy the capacity of involvement the parents of “typical” children have with their school. Their level of communication is literally determined by them instead of by the level of necessity and frequency of IEP meetings.
My family’s from the Midwest: recently we moved to the desert then to the Pacific Northwest. The things we went through in the Northwest forced me to turn to homeschooling as an answer; looking back on the experiences we’ve had dealing with different states assured me I was doing the right thing. However that doesn’t change the fact that no parent should ever have to decide between working and homeschool based on a school districts incompetency.
Here’s a portion of our story.
Dealing with the School System/District in the Midwest and Desert
Within the first year of my son beginning school [in the Midwest] I noticed the teachers were spacey. Throughout the school years that didn’t get any better—in fact it steadily got worse. That opinion extends to the school and district in the desert as well.
Problems in the Midwest:
• They allowed my severely autistic [then nonverbal] child to walk to the bathroom by himself: he wandered outside and walked several blocks.
• The school district made me call and find a school when I refused the schools they choose.
• He was bullied to the point of peeing his pants, was even found behind gym equipment crying; he’d been beaten, kicked, spat on, and taunted. They suspended Z too.
• Funding to the special needs classrooms were cut, subsequently terminating the self-contained rooms in all but one school. They used the money saved to purchase new interactive dry erase boards.
Problems in the desert:
• Bus funding was cut before we arrived, ending transportation for children living within 10 miles of the school.
• When I brought up special needs transportation being in Z’s IEP they replied, “It’d be best if you just bought him headphones for the walk” and honestly thought that’d fly.
• When picking Z up one day I was notified he would be to the office soon. Twenty minutes later we found him walking around in the park next door.
• The school originally had no Special Education teacher or SLP.
Initially during IEP meetings it was evident that I was a neophyte. His school in the desert never saw this from me; I’d become a warrior by then. Through my experiences I’ve learned the most significant things parents of autistic children [that are school aged] can do is to become familiar with their state’s IEP, disability, and bus transportation statutes.
Yet nothing we had dealt with, thus far, compared to the chaos we were about to move into.
Dealing with the School System/District in the Pacific Northwest
The area we live in is hailed as one of the best areas in the country to raise an autistic child; I’m still looking for the part of this area they’re speaking of. I think I must’ve moved into the wrong corner of the northwest. This school has reduced us to tears many times. Per usual, the issue wasn’t so much the teachers as it was the other staff. The district also seems to think an IEP is optional if the arrangement doesn’t suit them. Our main IEP quarrel was over his paraprofessional. Z has many accommodations, one of which is a 1:1 Paraprofessional [Para] 5 days a week, 6 hours a day.
Issues with Z’s para:
• The district refused his para initially even though one was IEP'ed from the desert.
• They changed his para 3 times from November to May.
• When the para called in the district rarely sent replacements. Instead he was sent home with me.
• All my complaints were ignored
The Transportation Department was another hurdle. Bus Issues:
• They kept altering his bus number and aide
• They dropped him 30 mins-1 hour late to school for over a month.
• Z was written up for stimming on the bus several times, one resulting in him being called a “racist bully” on the document. [Allegedly he was repeating “black cracker” while flapping].
• The district refused to reverse the Transportation Departments decision.
• A girl spent weeks screaming “ASS BURGER” in his face without consequences.
• The nurse gave us a remarkably hard time over Z’s gluten free diet. Apparently "The Autism Diet" isn’t something they have to follow.
• Z was incessantly bullied at school.
• The students eat their lunches in a trailer parked beside the school without a physical connection to the school building.
Eventually my only choice was to make his lunch every day, contact an autism advocate, and update myself on a new state’s IEP laws.
I’ll give the districts I’ve dealt with a little break seeing as though I’m impossible to deal with in an IEP meeting or phone conference that’s not going how it should; however the quandary with schools, school districts, and school systems isn’t isolated to just 3 states or to the borders of this nation. This is a global issue. Despite what may be thought: filing a “Citizen’s Complaint for Due Process” doesn’t always work even though it is suppose too. I queried a large autism support group vis-à-vis school issues. While some parents declared they’re in a fantastic school district--a larger percentage told horror stories.
There were numerous bad stories from each location:
• West Virginia
• New York
• South Carolina
• Rhode Island
• South Africa
Their Chief Complaints:
• Refusal to Follow IEP
• Unprofessional Conduct
• Unqualified Teachers
• Unacceptable Placements
• Refusal to Send Home Work
• No Child Left Behind Left Their Child Far Behind
Parents shouldn’t have to fight this hard for a fundamental right of their child. Our children being conferred an education that befits their cognitive abilities is crucial to this countries growth, to any countries growth. Look at the prevalence numbers—they’re higher than we ever dreamed. One day all those “numbers” will be autistic adults, then what do we do? I don’t know what the resolution will be concerning the schools; however I am certain it’ll start with parents like you speaking out against the school systems as a whole, loudly making it known that we won’t stand for this any longer. Even if you homeschool your child, you have a voice: we all have a voice, use them!
After all, you know what they say about parents of autistic children: If the school officials don’t clinch up when they see you coming than you’re doing something wrong.