Monday, September 17, 2007

Autistic Child Suspended From Fayetteville School

If you think autism is all about high functioning savants and allegedly "low functioning" autistic adults who dispense internet advice and hobnob with Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Anderson Cooper and UK Guardian reporters think again. The Fayetteville Observer reports an all too common story of a non verbal, autistic boy who was suspended from school for an outburst of aggressive behavior. In effect, the boy was punished for being autistic. The school response was not unique to Fayetteville by any means and we have seen it happen here in New Brunswick on occasion although generally matters here are improving.

The school authorities should probably do a functional analysis of the incident, including a thorough analysis of the child's environment, program of instruction and learning methodology. Being in North Carolina the school will probably be involved with a TEACCH approach. It might be wise though to consider ABA, still the only evidence based proven effective educational approach for autistic children, particularly non verbal autistic children. TEACCH or ABA, the child should not simply be punished for behavior which arises directly from his Autism Disorder. The next step for some autistic children, unfortunately, is punishment in the criminal courts, punishment for being autistic.

As a lawyer, here in New Brunswick, I have seen it happen.


Maya M said...

I'll paste the end of the linked article:
"“We’re talking about a nonverbal autistic child. We can’t say (to him), ‘The reason you got suspended was you bit another child. You can’t do that anymore,’” Hall said. “I told him that, but did it get through? I don’t know.”
So the boy in question not only is non-verbal but doesn't understandably communicate by other means (writing, AAC or signing). It isn't clear to anybody how much he understands from what is said to him. Why, then, is he kept in this classroom at all? I would also become nervous and possibly aggressive if somebody forces me to stay quiet for hours and listen to things I don't understand.
Had he stayed quiet, then perhaps they would keep him in the school for 10 years and give him a diploma! And it still may happen.
I think this is another case of fake inclusion of a disabled child by just placing him in a typical classroom where he does not belong. My opinion is that this child needs education tuned to his individual abilities.

Unknown said...

You may be right maya although it would be necessary to be there, to know the child and to know the child's abilities and deficits to be sure.

I removed my son from the mainstream classroom several years ago because he was overwhelmed by that environment. He responded with self aggression, biting his hands and wrists. When he was moved to a quieter location to work on his individual program the biting stopped. And his learning improved.

You may be right about removing this child from the classroom to a quieter location. It is something the family and school officials should probably consider.

Maryk said...

maya M
I agree with you 100 percent if the beheavior of problem is a manifestation of disabilty they should not be removed from school
but the school system got around that with me by changing his setting to home First of all, educaters should not be making that determination We need to ban together to fight for rights for our children exactly what you said they are punishing them for being autistic

Shannon said...

My son is a high functioning Autistic child. He is virble and had been in an a main streem school all his life. On Friday after some kids where picking on him and calling his girl names he jumped on the back of one of there backs and said he was going to kill them. he is now suspended for 2 day. I wish there was something I could do.