I picked up my kids early on Friday so they could see the child psychologist. It was my daughter’s first official visit, her initial evaluation yielded ADHD but the rest of it is stuff she herself wants to work on, and it looks to be trauma related at first glance. She has bad dreams, wants to be kinder, and needs help figuring out when to draw the line with her friends and siblings-she knows she can be a bit of an instigator if not a bully.
But when it was Oldest Son’s turn it got real. He told us about school that day, how when he got to his classroom he had to wait for the teacher to get there and so he picked up a book to read at his desk.
He reads incessantly, you know. It’s a coping thing, he distracts himself with it and it’s the most benign behaviour issue he has ever had- well, except for when Middle Kid pulled him out of the way of a moving car when Oldest was reading while walking through a parking lot and starting wandering off track. But he can’t hear you when he is reading. The teacher hates it. He yells Oldest’s name over and over to get his attention and on the fourth or so attempt Oldest Son might hear.
The special ed teacher has been sending me emails this year. Telling me things like my son is a black and white thinker, my son argues, my son lacks social skills.
Yes, I always reply. Yes, he is autistic. Then I go into solutions. These are all in his IEP, anyway, but the entire special ed team has turned over since last year and I feel like the new team might not understand Oldest in particular and autism in general.
I have asked them to tap him on the shoulder instead of yelling at him. Oldest is embarrassed by the yelling, he is already different and his differences are starting to bother him. He even shushed me for speaking Persian in a parking lot the other day. So I started singing in Turkish. I am not good at being shushed anymore. I digress. I was going to talk to the teacher about all this at conferences, later this week.
So back to the reading. Oldest is reading, teacher comes in and yells his name and Oldest does not hear. So the teacher goes up to him and asks for the book and Oldest hands it over. Teacher then chucks the book across the room. This is not a school book. This is my son’s personal book from home. His own property.
My son is telling this story and he is sobbing. He already has a cold and it is Friday and he has been maintaining all week in this neurotypical world and I am immensely proud of him and sorry that I rushed him into the car earlier when he was trying to tell me something, probably this. I am not good at talking outside in 10 below, to be fair. But he has been trying to advocate for himself and has been accused of arguing, he has been trying to tell me what happened, and I have rushed him and told him “later”, and here he is in the psychologist office telling his story in a very linear manner, very straightforward, while sobbing. Good for him.
He will know I listened next Tuesday, when he walks into his new classroom with his new teacher.
So this was Friday, though, and I can’t do anything with administration after school on Friday. But I can go get his book back for him. I dropped the boys off at home as Oldest Son did not want to go back in the class and I took the Youngest with me to get the book. We knew it was thrown under a chair and that was all we knew about how to find it. Youngest was confident she could.
Guess who was there?
It was his teacher. I told him Oldest forgot his book, which was now on his desk and I saw his wiggle chair and asked if it helped and he said yes but that the books were a problem. I said “Really, he uses them to self regulate.” and tried to back out of there. But my daughter, my fearless bossy curious daughter went up to him and said “Oldest said you threw a book.” and teacher said “He wouldn’t stop reading!” and turns to me and says “All the other kids were sitting ready to learn…” and I stopped listening and protectively guided my daughter out of the room and told him to have a good weekend.
Because there is no other autistic kid in the classroom.
All the other kids. All the other kids are not working with IEPs and living with electrical storms in their brains and trying to navigate life without social cues. I knew right then that my son wasn’t going to ever be understood or empathized with in that classroom. All the other kids, indeed, are not like my son.
Look, I know the book throwing is reason enough. I am an abuse survivor and so is Oldest. I know that was assault by proxy, violence on a belonging implies violence on the owner. I know. But I wasn’t ready to condemn a person based on temper, because I have one of my own. I can throw shit and get away with it, maybe. But this is a professional who works with children. He can’t be a beast about anything. I shouldn’t be excusing people, it’s a bad habit, but I am sure I am far from the only victim who does this habitually.
So I didn’t sleep well on Friday. I talked to a few moms, we agreed, as does the psychologist, that a classroom change is best. Despite the disruption and stress it causes my son at least he won’t feel unsafe, singled out, or like his teacher hates him. I can’t imagine a new place is more stressful than those feelings.
I was ready to go in there and get pissed off in a couple of languages, I had a lot of scenarios running through my head and none of them made me look anywhere close to sane. But it didn’t turn out that way. I put on a suit and threw the IEP copy from my filing cabinet into a soft sided briefcase. I got the director to meet with me nearly immediately and I wasn’t forceful or alarming. I managed to be pleasant, a useful survival skill. She called in the special ed director after ten minutes, and a half hour later we were decided and I only had to say “violence” one time.
I just know I am grateful for having a room full of women who could see how the IEP was not being followed and agree that we could do better and a change was in order.
I was planning for a fight and I got consensus.
I hear horror stories all the time from other parents of autistic kids. I can’t tell Oldest until the last day of the week that he is changing classrooms. I hope he knows he did this for himself, that his voice was heard. I wish it were different but he will have to be making choices to protect himself over and over from those who lack empathy. Funny how neurotypicals claim it’s the autistics who haven’t got any.