I have a meeting after work today with the Special Education Coordinator for our area. She wants to meet with the parents of the Autistic children of our area and discuss the possibility of having them educated in our own area.
Currently, they are considered part of our school district; they just get bused out to another school, one which has been the only school near us to have a special Autism Program. Many of these children have been going to the current school since they were in Kindergarten. My son is one of them.
The woman’s plan seems to be that since our school would have an Autism Program, all of the Autistic children of our area could ride a regular bus to school. Thus, saving our school a boatload of money on transportation. Most of the students currently ride a special van to the other school.
Her heart might be in the right place. I can’t say, because I don’t know her well. I anticipate, however, that she will come up against some protests from the parents. I will be one of the parents who protest.
Children with Autism thrive on routine. When those routines are changed, they are thrown off dramatically.
Cameron has had his current teacher for three years, since Kindergarten. He will be moving on to another teacher for Third Grade. He is already upset and nervous about leaving her and his classroom aids. If he had his way, he would stay with her forever.
With the current plan, he would move over one building. He would have a teacher that he is familiar with. He would gradually be transitioned into her classroom, so that it’s not such an overwhelming experience when he goes there for Third Grade.
It is difficult for the parent of a child with Autism to establish trust with anyone who will be caring for their child for an extended time. It is certainly much more difficult than the experience that the parents of Neurotypical (“normal”) children have.
Think back to the first time you put your Neurotypical child on the bus to school. You were probably nervous. Would he/she be safe? Would the teachers make sure your child got on the right bus? Would your child make friends? Would he/she like their teacher?
For the parent of a child with Autism, it is at least ten times worse. Imagine that your child is in a perpetual state of innocence. Their intelligence grows, but their innocence remains intact for a very long time. This makes them the potential target of abuse, neglect, bullying, and a host of other dangers.
A child with Autism stands out. They are usually very sensitive to sensory input. This means that a bus ride may be too much for them to take. They might be covering their ears, rocking, stimming, or acting out – all because they are so overwhelmed.
These actions suddenly come to the attention of some cruel children. Your child is now the victim of teasing or physical abuse.
We would like to think that the bus driver would be able to stop these things from happening. But in reality, the bus driver can’t see all things all of the time. His or her main priority is to get the children safely to school.
It takes time to establish trust with the teachers who will be handling your Autistic child. When you see that they put their whole heart into their relationship with your child, you are able to breathe a sigh of relief. Some teachers are not like that. We have been very blessed that our child’s teacher puts her very soul into teaching each child.
There are already so many changes planned. My little boy will have trouble with the changes to his routine. Now, they want to take away his van drive, the time that he gets picked up, the school he will attend (which also means a change to his drive), the teachers that he will have, and all that goes with that.
I am strongly opposed to these changes. Many other parents feel the same. My voice may be only a tiny whisper in a crowd of people who have an opposite view, but I will speak nonetheless. I will be a voice for my child. I will stand by his side and support him, no matter what is ultimately decided.