I had a great session with Tyler’s clinical psychologist yesterday morning. As many of you know, we’ve had an issue with a school bully from last year, and the child is in Tyler’s life skills class. I have been empathic to the other child’s situation and have actively and aggressively worked on trying to make my child’s situation better. I have run into obstacles at every turn and Tyler just flat doesn’t want to go to school. Further due to Tyler’s inability to truly communicate, it is still unknown as to full series of events that took place last year and since this child is still in Tyler’s class it causes a lot of anxiety and refusal to go to school. WE HAD ABSOLUTELY NO ISSUES IN SUMMER SCHOOL AND YET THE UNNAMED CHILD DID NOT ATTEND SUMMER SCHOOL. In about a 3-4 week period last year the “new” kid came in and practically turned a classroom upside down (at the time mine wasn’t the only experiencing changes in behaviors). He ruined Tyler’s last few weeks of 5th grade.
After speaking with the psychologist, since we are unsure of all what happened and all we know at this point is that this child (name not mentioned) makes Tyler ‘angry’, he did confirm that Tyler’s behavior is NOT separation anxiety that Tyler’s behavior expresses PHOBIA or TRAUMATIZED. I knew this wasn’t separation anxiety (some school professionals were considering separation anxiety), but Tyler knows I am his protector and his refusal to go to school and the way he acts in not wanting to go through the door and not wanting me to leave, is his way of asking for my help (doctor’s words) not a separation issue. Of course, this concerns me in numerous ways. I also explained that this broken hand was also a part of trying to stay out of school (last year it was an intentionally hurt foot and ankle – this year a broke hand – all to avoid school????) His broken hand only hurts when it’s time to go to school. Due to Tyler’s inability to properly communicate I may never know exactly what happened. I do believe that the behavior was “inappropriate” behavior and possibly some physical bullying, I know it was noise related and intruding in personal space issues as well. I can’t ask Tyler certain questions because when you do, you’ve planted the words and seeds into his mind and he will repeat what you say, but you don’t know if it’s correct or now. Appropriate and parroted answers are not always the correct answers (the joy of autism). I need Tyler to tell me what happened, not through seed planting or multiple choice, but in his own words in his own time. Through therapies and patience, it’s taken almost a year for Tyler to say what makes him angry at school is xxxx (the unnamed child) and this occurred last week. It seems like for now not much can be done other than home school because the “details” are unknown (the joy of autism – **sarcasim**) and being that there is only 1 life skills class (2 next year -currently in the same school side by side – with the possibility of one of the classes relocating to another jr. high) there is not a lot of options. My personal opinion is that the unnamed child is not properly placed and due to the fact of legalities and privacy laws NOTHING CAN BE DONE – so it leaves me to get my child to learn to cope and attend class (in the same class) with a known bully. I REALLY REALLY REALLY don’t want to homeschool Tyler.
The psychologist told me that I can’t protect him from everyone and this I know to be true. That at this age too – you have a lot of bickering arguing, teasing etc. I did assure the psychologist that I don’t’ expect Tyler to get along with everyone and vice versa. But that I am looking to find ways to teach Tyler coping skills when traumatic things happen in life and now he needs to learn defense skills as well, and I am here for suggestions. Tyler used to be VERY VERY aggressive until I placed him on medication and that aggression has almost subsided. I was aware of Tyler’s actions and effects it had on the staff and other students and tried everything, I could possibly think of prior to the medication as I knew Tyler was only going to get bigger, stronger and I didn’t want him to be considered a bully (even if it was diagnosis related). So now as a passive person he has no sense to defend himself. With a year’s worth of therapy on learning emotions and handling anger and not acting out seems all for not when it comes to self=defense. The world is full of mean, angry and very hateful people and Tyler and many others like Tyler will constantly exposed to them. As much as the medication has helped him in some areas, it appears that it has left him vulnerable in other areas and plus Tyler (and many kids on the spectrum) don’t have “instincts” about people – they trust the people around them to protect them from other people, so when people are brought into a classroom as a new friend, they go with the flow they don’t have instincts to stay away from those who harm them. Spectrum kids rely so much on the adults and sorta “follow” what they are told and who they are exposed to – (yet another autism aggravation and not a skill of life that can really be taught – even facial expressions – when learning emotions are very misleading, his behavior therapist and I speak of this and as he progresses in emotions therapy learning to read body language is also a future goal – even if it seems impossible)
Until I learn of the actual events that occurred last year, the psychologist has suggested that I keep up with what I am working and possibly even attend school with Tyler so that Tyler and I can discuss his day and the procedure of how he and this child are separated even if in the same class. He wants me to avoid homeschooling if possible, but completely understands the reason why I would have too if it doesn’t stop. His suggestion at this time is to give this more time and work with the other therapist and listen for the time(s) that Tyler begins to talk about what happened last year in school. He did agree with me about planting seeds and to avoid those if possible, to speak with the therapist about possibly developing some other type of ongoing theraputic sessions that can get Tyler to speak of the past events on his own. The way you deal with situations is to bring it to the surface, face, deal with it and move on from it. The other side that is dealt with Autism is PATTERN SETTING and Tyler is a FAST pattern setter so any changes to routine (not going to school and the behaviors displayed every morning have yet again set another pattern). He said that he understands about the pattern setting but if we change the environment (home school) he may not ever talk about it if he’s not facing the person daily.
I knew it wasn’t the staff, I knew it wasn’t the school work, I knew it wasn’t the change in school, I knew it wasn’t separation anxiety, I KNEW it WAS THIS KID – I have a lot of empathy for this child, his life and I try not to exclude this child when I take things to the school and I know Tyler acknowledges that child in a positive way (from across the room) when the child gives the right answer on group class work BUT that child is not mine and I can’t help the child, his parents OBVIOUSLY could care less about their child’s well being (there is NO WAY that these parents have NOT been told of their child’s behaviors in class). This child needs to be placed in an emotional disturbed class environment and does not need to be with children who have difficulty with communication (not just AU kids but other kids who can’t communicate that well either). Because of the legalities and privacy laws with the district, their hands are tied (thank you govt bureaucracy) and only that child’s parent can advocate for that placement, which is truly for that child’s safety and the safety of others.
When you work with your spectrum child or any child that has neurological or emotional issues and/or a combination of both you first consider your child’s needs and you also have to consider the needs and safety of those around him/her. There will come a time in life that the outcome of your child’s actions can not be cloaked and protected under their diagnosis.
The psychologist did suggest Animal Therapy (possibly volunteering at an animal shelter or horse riding therapy) IF POSSIBLE as animals and AU kids communicate without words to one another and I asked him what about self-defense karate classes or boxing lessons (now that he’s so passive the psychologist nixed this idea in the past due to Tyler’s extreme aggression) he said that now it maybe ok to start approaching those ideas and to work hand in hand on when to use the defense and not to use it as an aggressor. So I am going to be on the hunt for some self-defense classes. Give him an outlet to go to, a safe haven and a place to help (the shelter) and he’s seen great things with the horse therapies (the only problem with that is the distance and expense for but the animal shelter is a possibility) and of course when the cast comes off Tyler will return to golf lessons, as the psychologist also suggested some sort of activity that he enjoys (sports, music, etc.) so that he has a “happy” place to go to.
For those AU parents – if your child has delayed cognitive development always work on that cognitive development affects so many things. Remember words do not mean communication. Many communicated responses (be them verbal or non verbal) may be appropriate but not necessarily correct, keep your parental instincts in tune with your child. Further even sign language, pictures schedules, etc does not mean full communication this is an ongoing issue that will be a lifetime of work. Pay keen attention to their changes in behaviors, their environments and changes in environments. Bullies exist inside special ed class rooms as well and the school districts are very limited. I’ve said BEFORE THIS happened with Tyler and I will say it over and over. Bullies are NEVER held accountable for their actions and neither are their parents. School districts are the worst place to encounter bullies as with all the govt red tape and bureaucracy bs – policies only make things worse.
I am not hiding my head in the sand I know Tyler is going to encounter things in life that aren’t nice, but because he lacks so many things in so many areas it makes it difficult to teach coping skills, and it’s heart breaking to force your child into an environment where they feel and experience fear and anxiety at the actions of someone else. It doesn’t matter how intelligent Tyler is, it doesn’t matter how much he can learn academically when taught in a manner that he can learn, if life skills, coping skills, communication skills don’t exist. Your child trusts you for protection and guidance and sometimes a little bit of tough love has to be dished out even with a special needs child. Until the day comes when Tyler can tell me exactly what happened last year, I will continue to have to push him into a classroom with what I believe an emotionally disturbed child who has anger issues, violent outburts (may or may not be meltdowns) and other things I won’t mention, whose behavior last year turned a classroom upside down and who’s presence continues to affect my child. My heart does hurt for what the other child has been through in life but I can’t fix his problems nor help him with his problems, he’s not my child and as a normal process of emotions, I tend to feel the rise of anger in me against that child’s parents and the child as well. I really have no idea if his parents are doing what they can and getting him the help he needs, I honestly don’t know (I just assume that they are not as I’ve met both of the parents and they don’t strike me as the type to be concerned – again I know I am making judgment calls about someone without knowing all the facts about the parent’s actions) and I speak out in frustration for the difficulty in trying to help my own child. I continually pray to keep my anger at bay, so as not to let my anger get the best of me when I am trying to help my own child.
So now to add to my schedule, I will have to work days in where I will attend school with Tyler, yet setting a pattern that I am NOT at all pleased about and will be difficult to break. Of course it is known when a parent or visitor is in the classroom, that MOST people act differently anyway. But the purpose of this is NOT to see actions but to be able to truly try and communicate with Tyler the classroom environment, the settings, etc.
Heavenly Father, I continue to come to you for guidance and assistance. PLEASE help me keep my anger low and patience high. Help me listen to intuition and recognize things that need to be addressed and handled in a way that is healthy and helpful for Tyler. Please continue to give me guidance on where to obtain the knowledge and skills to teach him what he needs to learn from the experience and work through me to help him. Please continue to give me the strength and energy to handle all that is placed before me. When the time comes (and it happens) that I want to give up, grant me that necessary restful break You always provide so that I can bounce up and continue the work. As frustrating as it is, I also pray that somehow, someway, that help will provided to the other child involved as I know he needs help in his own ways. I can’t help him but I know You would ask that I pray for him. Tyler was created by You and gifted to me to rear and I pray for your continued guidance on this unique, amazing and challenging journey. Amen.