What kind of society yanks a 10-year-old child with autism from school in the middle of the day, tears him away from his mother (who had NO notice until the moment it happened), and throws him in jail for something he did months ago?
The United States of America. Land of the free. Home of the brave. Aren’t we something? Makes you real proud to be an American, doesn’t it?
Yeah, we really protected society from danger by cuffing little John Haygood’s hands behind his back and escorting him out to a police car in front of God and everybody in the middle of a school day.
“Excuse me, do you have any paperwork or anything you can show to me?”
John’s mother didn’t have the faintest idea why her son was being taken away in a police car. They finally told her he was being arrested for leaving scratches and marks on a teacher back in October 2016. Felony battery. And now it’s April 2017. Yeah. That’ll teach him. He’ll definitely connect the cause and effect of that one. (Not.)
Since when does our society think it’s appropriate to arrest a 10-year-old boy at school in front of God and everybody in the first place?
The most troubling thing isn’t this one incident, but the fact that this is one of many, many incidents like it. Far too many schools resort to police interference in the elementary school setting. (What better way to condition children to accept a police state? But that’s another discussion entirely.) What I want to focus on here is the lack of common sense schools exhibit when it comes to helping kids with autism succeed in a classroom setting.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m a teacher. I don’t relish being kicked, scratched or punched by a student. My granddaughters attend public school. I don’t want them hit or scratched by an out-of-control child. Let’s be clear: I’m not condoning bad behavior. My beef is with the lack of in-class support given teachers and students with autism so that this situation doesn’t occur in the first place. If a student with autism is placed in a regular classroom, and expected to act like regular students, then the school should provide every support necessary for that student to succeed. Instead, from the sounds of it, the student and teacher were set up to fail.
How do I know this when I wasn’t there? Because a child with autism with proper support won’t throw paper balls in class, hurt other students and teachers, or be on his own to react to a reprimand the way this child did. And a teacher, well-trained in autism, won’t react to an autistic student’s behavior in an in-your-face confrontational way, or grab a student with autism and bodily remove him from a classroom.
I know because I have taught students with autism as well as my own children. Children with autism cannot have open-ended expectations and succeed. That’s like asking a child with paralysis in his legs to navigate the school halls without his wheelchair. You don’t physically man-handle any child, leave alone a child with autism. Tactile defensiveness sends the brain into fight or flight mode in kids with autism. You wouldn’t expect a diabetic student to go without checking his sugar or taking his insulin during the school day. And yet, we violate the needs of children with autism everyday in America’s schools.
Most schools in America don’t get this. But they better figure it out because according to the CDC, 1 in 42 boys have autism now.
Wait. Let’s take a moment for that to sink in. 1 in 42 boys have autism.
If that statistic isn’t enough to make you shudder, you ain’t got a shudder button. I don’t know about you, but when I was growing up, I don’t think I even met someone with autism. And now, 1 in 42 boys have it.
If that statistic doesn’t shout out the fact that your typical children or grandchildren will share a classroom with a child with autism, then you ain’t comprehendin’ what I’m tryin’ to say here.
This problem of inappropriate services for students with autism isn’t going away. In fact, it’s only going to get worse. And yet, schools in general don’t take the time to train staff about autism, or provide the sensory tools students need to get through a day. Sooner or later a school is going to get sued. And when it happens, I hope it wakes up the whole lot of them.
We don’t expect blind students to read the same textbooks or navigate the building the same way typical students do without the tools they need. But schools expect students with autism to. Far too much is asked of teachers and students and no tools are provided. How do I know? I’m the mother of twins with autism. I wrestled myself with the schools. I’m now teaching in a public school and I see the lack of support with my own eyes. I experienced the lack of support when the twins were growing up and homeschooled them for almost all their elementary and junior high years.
When I speak of support, I’m not talking moral support. I’m talking about visual boundaries, a 1:1 aide, visual schedules, and the most important thing of all: keeping the student with autism meaningfully engaged. An engaged student doesn’t have negative behavior. Yes, there are exceptions. There are students who refuse to be engaged. I understand that. But most negative behavior stems from students not being effectively, and meaningfully engaged. The activity must have relevance. It must have a clear beginning and a clear end. Students with autism can’t be expected to sit in an open-ended classroom without proper guidance and 1:1 support.
Society, in general, likes to call kids with autism brats. Americans and the world in general are sick and tired of hearing about autism. But they’re obviously not tired enough because we don’t know why 1 in 42 boys have autism now. When will the experts take a good hard look at this epidemic? When the statistic becomes 1 in 2?
When people told me that I needed to spank my sons with autism, I invited them to my house for one hour. One hour. Spend one small hour with my sons and tell me that all they need is a good spanking.
Funny. No one took me up on it. Doesn’t matter. I guarantee you they wouldn’t have lasted more than five minutes back then. (We’ve come a long way!)
Society also wants to believe the rumor that more kids are diagnosed with autism because it’s the new trendy disorder, much like they assumed ADHD to be in the 90s. But that argument doesn’t hold water because autism is the only disorder dramatically on the rise while intellectual disabilities, Down Syndrome and Cycstic Fibrosis remain relatively the same. Something is wrong. Very wrong. And whether or not we find out the reason behind these brains that fire differently and explosively, we’ve got to address the current crisis effectively. Most public schools simply don’t.
My challenge to you is this: find out how your school supports students with autism and then let me know in the comments below.
Does your public school have:
- A sensory room for students with autism to calm?
- Teachers trained in autism teaching techniques?
- Lessons provided in an accessible way for the student with autism so they can learn the same material in their own way?
- Visual schedules?
- 1:1 trained aids for students who struggle with volatile behavior? (Not rotating aids — the same aid every single day)?
- Lessons/activities that provide clear beginnings and endings?
- Social Stories?
- The use of video technology to help the student with autism decipher social cues?
- Extensive social skills and behavior training for the student with autism at the preschool-3rd grade level?
My guess is the answer is no. And folks, that’s just the basics a school should be providing. Just. The. Basics. Instead, most schools are terrified of having to provide something like the list above because it may cost more. Well, guess what. We either take care of the kids diagnosed with autism intensively at the preschool-3rd grade level, or we support them the rest of their lives.
So, until the public schools stop brushing students with autism aside (and hoping and praying to God that their parents will remove them from school and keep them home), kids like John will continue to be arrested, handcuffed, and taken to juvenile detention centers for overnight stays. (I can’t imagine the horror his mother and he went through. She wasn’t even warned of any warrants for his arrest!)
It’s unconscionable. Frankly, it’s child abuse. Students with autism need advocates to stand up for them. I hope you’ll join me in adding your voice to mine.
Public School’s Answer to Autism: Jail first appeared on KarlaAkins.com. Karla Akins is a public school teacher and the author of A Pair of Miracles: A story of autism, faith and determined parenting published by Kregel. Release: July 2017.
When we adopted the twins 22 years ago, I couldn’t have known the challenges we’d face with them when they became adults. Besides having to use key-less entry locks to keep things in the proper places, we’re also learning to navigate this brave (sort of) new world of social media. How does a parent with adult children with disabilities help their child through the swamp of online bullying, manipulation, and outright danger of online relationships?
Disability rights advocates frown on parental interference in adult relationships, but what if that adult functions on an eight-year-old level? Isn’t it indeed abuse not to intervene to protect that individual?
I’ve learned the hard way that I never should have allowed the twins unfettered access to social media. Not that I could have stopped them, really. They’re both tech savvy. They both want to fit in, and they both love the socialization that happens on Facebook. That’s been a huge plus for them socially because they’re more comfortable writing than speaking. But frankly, I wish I didn’t have to oversee what goes on with them online because it’s extremely time-consuming.
In my interview with Gloria Doty, I learned how her daughter with autism was manipulated, raped, and abused due to online relationships gone wrong (the incident is discussed at 57:10).
What my sons have experienced is bullying, controlling and manipulation. But what is worse, I’m terrified one of my guys will contact an underage girl and be misunderstood. This has happened before and we almost had a dad show up ready to kill. We had to talk him down and explain it was a harmless contact. Nothing would ever come of it. He was not very understanding. I don’t blame him. (Nothing inappropriate was said or done. But the fact my son was 19 at the time and the girl was 14 freaked the dad out as it should have.)
I’m looking into alternative social media for the guys but there’s slim pickings. PLUS, they want to be where everyone else is. And why wouldn’t they? If Facebook appeals to over a billion people, of course they’re going to want in on the “fun.” (Personally, I don’t like Facebook for many reasons, but that’s another post for another day.)
Do you know how difficult it is to delete a Facebook profile when the owner can’t remember his password? Do you know how difficult it is to keep an intellectually-immature person from creating one in the first place? Do you know how embarrassing it is to have people sending me screen shots of stuff my sons post in innocence but could be taken wrong? (I do appreciate this, by the way. It helps me keep them safe, but still…)
We’ve gone through several really bad online girlfriend situations. These girls were absolutely ruthless in their bullying and control. One young woman took over my son’s page and wouldn’t allow him to have any of his everyday friends on it. He started using bad language that she used. She Face Time called him every day for hours at a time. It was a nightmare!
At other times one of the guys will post on Facebook that he wants a girlfriend and to contact him if interested.
Talk about the dredges of society crawling out of the darkness! I now know things about people and sexuality that I never wanted to know. I now have seen things I can’t un-see.
If you have any ideas about keeping people with intellectual disabilities safe on Facebook, let me know. It’s difficult for the guys to understand that not all young women who say they are young women are really who they say they are. I’m very concerned that some undercover agent is going to bait them and they’re going to fall for it. Worse, I’m very concerned that they’ll be bullied again.
By the way. While writing this post my husband informed me that one of the twins rang up some international calls. I’m thinking of starting a GoFundMe page…
Tweet this: Autism grows up: how do we handle social media?
Photo Credits: Photo credit: Enzo Morelos via Visualhunt.com / CC BY-NC-ND Photo credit: FixersUK via Visualhunt / CC BY-ND
I think I live in an awesome time to be a writer. What used to take months, even years, to research, I can learn now with just a few clicks. I don’t have to travel anywhere but to my writing cave to go all over the world. I don’t even need a thesaurus, dictionary or encyclopedia at my side. Click. Click. A plethora of resources appears at the command of my fingertips.
As I’ve shared before, I really do wish it were possible to read the entire Internet. Then again, sometimes I read so much of it I’m left with even fewer answers than before. The reason? Not every expert agrees. Our knowledge on this earth is finite, and our faith, work and lives extremely complex. There’s simply no way to know everything.
And then there’s the issue of digital versus 3-D. Print book vs. e-book. Hard copy versus virtual. I find myself unable to commit to one or the other. Fact is, I’m a hybrid consumer when it comes to using resources.
When organizing your thoughts while writing and planning, do you lean more toward digital or 3-d? I find myself doing both. I still haven’t completely committed to a digital calendar. I record both in my hard copy planner and my digital google calendar. For some reason, the hard copy planner is like a security blanket for me.
Maybe if I’d grown up recording my life in the virtual world I’d be more willing to let the hard copy calendar go. For now, though, I have it on my phone, computer, on the wall on a whiteboard and in my planner. I don’t know if that’s because I’m getting older and am afraid of being forgetful, or if I just enjoy planning.
As for planning a novel, I find myself using both Kanbanflow, WriteWay software and a 3-D notebook for storing ideas, outlines, characterizations and research. I found a really awesome little notebook that I wish, oh wish, they’d make in a 2″ binder. In this I keep all sorts of notes, such as my Pixar graphic organizers, character charts, names, research and more. I like being able to reach for the notebook instead of having to figure out where I stored the info online or on my laptop. And while WriteWay has given me a great tool for storing research and ideas, too, I still like having that back-up of a 3-D notebook.
For now, both 3-D and virtual/digital planning works for me. I know I’m probably working at it a little harder than the next person because I use redundant methods. But it makes me feel safer somehow. Plus, I’m an extremely visual person. Not being able to physically see my resources makes me sort of anxious. Am I the only one?
How about you? Are you more a virtual or 3-D consumer/planner/writer? Weigh in!
Dear Friends and Family:
(Note: This letter is not in any way a reference to my darling Mr. Himself!)
There have been some rumbles lately about the time I spend writing. To help us all get on the same page about this wordsmith-ing gig I’m into, I thought I’d write this letter to set a few things straight.
Few people understand the sacrifices a writer makes other than other writers. Especially writers with full-time jobs outside of writing. The perception most of the public has of people who write books, is that their work is easy and effortless. Authors sit down and *POOF* out pops a book.
When you’re a writer, people assume you don’t have a “real” job with “real” hours. Deadlines, to them, are just excuses to say no to things you don’t want to do, when the opposite is true. People also assume writers who are published get big royalty checks each month. Um, no. Not unless you’re a national/international best-seller. So far, no one is banging down my door offering me movie contracts or begging me to publish with them. And if a big royalty check arrived in the mail, someone stole it.
Some of you wonder how I juggle so many things and wear so many hats. It boils down to three basic things:
- I don’t watch TV. Think of how many hours you watch TV each week and add it up. That’s probably several whole days of writing for me. I get several whole extra days a week others don’t because I spend my spare time writing and researching instead of passively frying my brain on drivel. (As you can see, I have a high opinion of television these days.)
- Writing for me is as much a part of me as breathing. I must write. It’s been such a part of me, from such a young age, I simply can’t imagine not doing it. Ducks swim. I write. You hunt. I write. You are a car enthusiast, I’m a writer. I’m different from you. Different isn’t wrong, it’s just different.
- I’ve learned to say no. It upsets people. They call me names. They hurt my feelings by saying things like, “I’ll be sure they put ‘I have a deadline’ on your tombstone.'” (More about that in a minute.) But I’ve learned that no one will respect and protect my writing time but me. No one understands it, or wants it, as badly as I do.
I’ve learned that there’s no way to please everyone, so I’ve stopped trying. My aim is to please God and God alone. This has taken me far too long to learn. I wish I’d have done so many years ago. I’m thankful I’ve finally arrived at a place of self-respect and self-care.
You see, I really don’t mind having the epitaph of “I have a deadline” on my tombstone, because that’s exactly what I’m working for, that final deadline.
We will all stand before God one day. Alone. No one will stand there with us. The enemy will accuse us and Jesus will defend us. But we stand that day without any of our earthly friends and family with us.
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” 2 Corinthians 5:10, KJV.
“…And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” 1 John 2:1, KJV.
Heaven is the deadline I’m working toward. And that is why I must write. Far too many people don’t understand the outrageous love God has for them. Far too many live in deception and recklessly dance on the precipice of hell. I’m called to share the Good News with them. I’m called to rescue the perishing with my words.
I might not have the glamorous social life some of my friends have, or I might not be up on the latest pop culture, but I’m okay with that because I’m doing what I was born to do. Friends and family may reject me because of this writing passion. That’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make. I don’t live to please them.
I live to please my God. The One True God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. I look to the heavens every single day wondering if this is the day my Jesus returns for me. I look to those heavens with a mix of anticipation and excitement for myself, but sorrow for those I’ve not yet reached with His Words.
(Let me be clear. This does not make me more righteous or better than anyone else. My righteousness comes from my Messiah, Jesus, alone. In myself, I am nothing.)
My sacrifice is nothing compared to His. My sorrows nothing compared to what He endured on the cross. I don’t care if you call me addled or crazy. I know that I know Who He is, and Whom I serve. I serve a living God. I serve the God who created all those who call themselves gods. I serve the most powerful, most glorious, most merciful YHWH. I can no more stop writing to spread His message, than I can stop breathing.
So the next time you try to shame me into stopping this writing thing? I’ll hand you a copy of this post. Maybe you’ll understand. Maybe you won’t. But at least it is written. And like my father always said, “People believe if it is written, it is so.”
In this case, yes, it is indeed so. I will say no sometimes to fun, to something someone else wants me to do at the spur of the moment, when I’ve already carved out that time in my week to work (i.e., write). I won’t always be able to drop what I’m doing and get someone out of a bind because of something they failed to plan for. I am called to write, not fix someone else’s poor time management foibles.
That may sound harsh. But it’s what we writers must do in this day of rapid-fire-time-guzzlers. Someone is always going to misunderstand a writer’s need for space and time to create. Contrary to what people think, great words don’t simply magically appear at the end of our finger tips or pens and morph themselves into books, articles or blog posts.
If this writing thing was easy, everyone would publish a book. Newsflash to friends and family: this writing thing can be grueling. Yes, I love it. Yes, it’s what I’m made to do. That doesn’t mean that it’s not just plain hard work sometimes. There are times when people are asleep all snuggled up in their warm, comfy beds that I wish I was, too. Instead, I’m up earlier than the birds or later than the stars. I sacrifice sleep, family meals and going to the movies, just as you do at your own jobs. Writing is what I love, but writing is also time-consuming work.
If you love me, you’ll try to respect and understand this singular, unconventional path I walk. You won’t hold it against me when I can’t come running because I’m at work, just as you can’t rescue me when you’re at work. Instead of knocking me down, you’ll build me up and give me wings. It’s amazing what a little encouragement will do. I can go for hours, nay, weeks, on just one “atta girl!”
Finally, I love you. I love you with all your quirks, bad habits, and bad choices. I love you with all I have in me. Just because I’m writing doesn’t mean I stopped loving you. It just means I’m busy answering the call. And I promise. I promise. In between projects, I’ll emerge from my writing cave, and we’ll party and dance and eat and celebrate with outrageous abandon like a fat, sassy robin in springtime.
But there will come a day, when the cave will beckon me in again, and I will hibernate. Some hibernation times last longer than others. But never fear. They don’t last forever. When I emerge, like a moth from a chrysalis, I will fly back into the real world and do all I can to make it up to you.
Just please try to understand. This writing thing can be hard. The path is often lonely. And it’s made all the worse when I don’t have the sustenance of your blessing. I may not live to please you, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want your support.
And maybe, just maybe, a movie-maker will knock down my door. And when that happens? You’ll be right there with me on that red carpet.
I guarantee it.
Last year I held a contest in which I featured a different blog each month. The following blogs recieved the Brilliant Blog Award in 2016 and were in the running for the Most Brilliant Blog of all 2016:
1. Camels and Chocolate by Kristen Luna. My favorite secular blog. It’s a travel blog and the photos and layout of this blog are impeccable.
2. Miss NiNi’s Food Blog. There’s nothing I don’t like about this baker and writer’s blog. Her writing voice is just as delicious as her delectable pastries. Meet Miss NiNi here:
3. Zoe M. McCarthy’s Blog on Writing. This is probably my favorite blog right now for practical, simple, easy-to-grasp advice on writing. I have printed out pages of this blog to file in my writer’s notebook, and have created graphic organizers with some of the tips she shares. I highly recommend this blog.
4. Grace on Parade by Karen Wingate. Karen inspires me with her fortitude and commitment to leading a life dedicated to her Savior. Her life as a pastor’s wife is intense, but there’s a peace and serenity to her blog that I favor. Her struggle with legal blindness and the miracles attached to that experience are riveting. You really must visit this blog, and often!
5. Kristy Cambron. This blog is not only pretty, it’s rich in encouragement and spiritual food. I fell in love with Kristy after reading her first book. I also like the way Kristy incorporates video into her blog. You’re missing out on something very special if you don’t subscribe. Kristy is a consistent blogger and you can count on her posts each week to inspire you to draw closer to Jesus.
6. Bob Hostetler’s One Prayer a Day Blog. I love getting these prayers in my emails each day. (I subscribe to his blogs by mail.) He also has other blogs you can check out here. Bob’s a former pastor and a best-selling author. I can hardly wait to dig into his latest book: The Bard and the Bible.
7. Books & Such Literary Agency. Everything you need to know about working with a publishing agent can be found on this blog. Read and digest!
8. Shelley Wilburn’s Walking Healed. Ever since Jesus healed Shelley, she can’t stop speaking and blogging about it! Her blog is delightful. And anyone who wears mismatched socks is just okay with me! You’ll love her. She now has a companion study guide to go with her book. You’ve got to check it out!
9. Tom Threadgill’s wit and satire on his blog are second to none. I always giggle when I read Tom’s blog. He is also an editor and you can acquire his services over on his editing website, Eagle Eye Edits.
There were only nine blogs nominated because I was student teaching the last three months of the year and simply didn’t have enough time to blog about all the wonderful blogs out there. (You can read my teaching blog at KarlaTeaches.com.)
Now, I know you can hardly wait to learn who the winner is, right?
And the winner is–
Miss Nini’s blog received the most votes for Blog of the Year!
Tweet this: The most brilliant blogs of 2016!
Autism looks different in every family because autism is different in every person. My experience with autism is unique and different from my friend’s experience with her son with autism. There are similarities, yes. The frustration, and the damage to our sons’ brains is the same. But her son exhibits behaviors my sons don’t and vice versa.
Raising identical twins with autism definitely had (and has) challenges. They are almost 22-years-old now, and many of these challenges have integrated so much into our daily lives, that I forget other families don’t live like we do. (Yes, the twins still live at home with us.)
Because of autism, I have numeric key pad doorknobs on my bedroom and office doors. This is because autism in this house loves to rifle through closests and drawers. Most of the time it results in something being broken or ruined. It only took us 21 years to finally install locks. I don’t know why we waited so long. It has solved so many problems. Why a keyless entry? They can pick locks or twist the doorknob hard enough to get in. Also, keyless keeps me from having to carry a key with me all the time.
Because of autism, my expensive watch (a gift from my husband) was broken the other day because I left it in the kitchen after removing it for doing dishes. Autism tried to wear it. A 22-year-old man’s wrist is a lot larger than mine. And I have exceptionally small wrists. I don’t know when I’ll ever have the time or money to get that watch fixed.
Because of autism, I can’t leave my laundry basket in the laundry room when washing clothes. I have to lock my clothes up in my bedroom and take them load by load to the laundry room. Then, I have to guard the dryer very carefully so that nothing gets stolen. Autism loves the sensory input Mom’s soft, warm clothes provide.
Because of autism, my husband and I can’t go anywhere alone because the twins can’t be left unsupervised. If they are, they could rifle through every drawer, eat every morsel of food in the fridge, or worse, burn the house down (they are fascinated with candles and, well, fire). Plus, if you’ve ever had twins, you know the nuclear fallout sibling rivalry can cause. They don’t know their strength. They are the best of buds when things are going well. But you never know when a fight over the remote can erupt into a firestorm. (There’s that fire thing again…)
And yes. Sometimes? Autism sucks. But beause of autism, I get to laugh every single day at the funny things that happen. Like the times we ask the twins to drive their golf cart to the store (close to home) to get something and they come back with a very literal load of something. If you send them for five bananas, they’ll come home with five bunches of bananas. If you send them for a large can of something, they’ll return with a gallon can.
Because of autism watching comedy is a lot more fun. Watching them laugh is the best part. They’re the best chortlers. Taking them to the movies is the best. Even people in the theater get a kick out of how tickled they get. It’s awesome.
Because of autism I know the theme songs to almost every cop show on TV. I not only know the theme songs, I have the scripts memorized.
Because of autism, I never have to wonder about the weather. I get hour by hour updates by my very own weather men.
Because of autism I see things differently. I’m more patient, kind and tolerant. Little things don’t get to me. I have very few pet peeves. There’s a different level of normal for me. I can study and read in a hurricane. I can tune out a train coming through the living room. I’ve learned how to go with the flow. I’m more flexible than Gumby and have amazing reflexes for a grandma. I can catch anything coming at me or falling off a table. And messes? What mess?
Because of autism I’m a good shot when throwing things across the room into the trash bin. Because the twins didn’t potty train until they were almost nine means I’ve changed diapers for 21 years straight. (I had other children and foster children before we adopted the twins.) I’ve thrown my share of dirty diapers into a bin while holding down a child having a melt down. Right-handed, even. (I’m left-handed.)
There are drawbacks to this autism thing. There are. But there are far more blessings when I stop to look for them. I pray I continue to focus on the blessings. I’m no saint. I dislike the meltdowns and the inconveniences and embarrassments autism brings us at times. But if I can focus on the blessings, I can face it with joy each day.
In this house, we see autism as a type of gift. Its wrapping isn’t very pretty. It’s downright ugly at times. But I guarantee these young men have given me much more than I’ve given them. Much, much more.
Because of autism in this family there is love. So much love. And I think that’s the greatest gift autism brings. I’ve learned to love unconditionally and outrageously. And the twins’ love for everyone around them is boundless and pure. I’m grateful I get to experience it. So, so grateful.
Tweet this: Because of autism in this house…