Thursday, November 15, 2007

Another Day in Paradise

What's irritating Betsy the most today, you ask? Why, thank you for your concern. Sit back, relax (believe me, I'm stressed enough for all of us), and let me climb aboard the soapbox.


Tuesday night the following email was sent to me from an administrator at my school (names have been omitted to protect the not-so-innocent):

I'm reading email and apparently there is some unsafe behavior going on in
some of our classes on some days. Because we are a Love and Logic school
this does not mean it isn't "so sad when you hurt another child" because there
are definite natural consequences that go with being unsafe in school. The
natural consequence of unsafe behavior is no participation with other
students for a while and a plan of action. We have ----- and I to help
facilitate a plan of action session with any child and he is happy to make sure
kids communicate this to their home - via a phone call. We are still
progressive here at ---. Parents are still our partners.

I sent home a kindergartner the other day, early. The child and I called
dad and said, "Oh, this is a bummer. School ends early since your child is
making it so other children are not safe." Dad came to pick him up.

Chaos is not Love and Logic. Kids recognizing that the expectation is the same - safety and respect is love and logic. If they chose to act differently, it's a
bummer because there is always natural consequences to face. Let ----- or
I help you. --- and -------- can help too! We are here to work with kids and, of course, we enjoy playing with them too.

Today, during PE, a 2nd grader put his hands around the neck of a classmate, in a choking action. This happened about 10 minutes after he had another classmate in (what looked to me to be) a headlock. While returning to class after PE, he punched a classmate for no reason. Less than an hour later, in another unprovoked attack, he hit another classmate. After losing 5 minutes of recess because of his earlier behavior, he continued to throw rocks after being warned not to and began swearing on the busy, packed playground. He was sent to the office for a 5 minute time out (his 2nd in 3 hours) where he almost tore a poster from the wall and then played with the miniblinds on the window. There was no call to mom or dad and no communication to them of his behavior other than a note that he "had a rough day".

Are you kidding me???

The reason this kid is still at school is because he has Down syndrome. He's very high functioning, but because he has Down's it's "okay" that he does all this and more. At least that's how the school district sees it.

Now, here's the other side of the coin: I have a 23 year old son with Down Syndrome. He's labled 'profoundly retarded' (yes, I know i said the "r" word) and is on about the level of a 36 month old child. When Patrick misbehaves, he knows there are consequences. He knows that if his behavior warrants it, he may get popped on the hand, he may have a favorite toy taken away, or he may get a spanking. The point is, my kid knows what behavior is acceptable and what is not, and he's WAY lower functioning than this other kid. This is not to say that Patrick is an angel all the time, because he isn't. But he damn sure knows that if he acts out, he will face the 'natural consequences'.

I'm so sick and tired of parents of special needs kids who make exceptions for their child's behavior because little Johnny 'doesn't know any better'. Give me a break! With few exceptions, yes, Johnny DOES know better, or is at least capable of knowing better if you choose to teach him. One of the most important things, if not THE most important thing, that a parent must teach ANY child is what is socially acceptable behavior. It's no more okay for Patrick to throw a temper tantrum than it is for my non-special needs kids to throw one. What is going to happen when that 2nd grader punches someone and the other kids punches him back because he or she is sick of getting hit? In my experience, many (if not the majority of ) special needs kids don't have the ability to navigate the gray area that the rest of us has. They don't understand that something is okay in this situation, but not in that situation. Things for them usually need to be either black or white, not somewhere in between.

I feel that the school (and this child's parents - but that's a whole other story) are doing less than the best for this child. And gawd knows I'm a less than perfect parent, but when that child is a teenager or an adult and is still going around doing this type of behavior, who will be to blame then?

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