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Posts Tagged ‘Home School’

No Place for Them

Posted by lofgray on May 10, 2008

Thomas is different from other kids. In pre-school he helped teach his classmates. At the age of six Thomas could read the newspaper or the ingredients listed on his cereal box. For the past year Thomas has been teaching himself how to speak and read Japanese. Thomas is still in elementary school. He is different because he has Pervasive Developmental Disorder, a high functioning form of autism. Thomas can use his mind better than most adults however; he also senses the world as if everything was though a high powered microscope.

For you and me to drive down the road on a rainy afternoon with the radio on while carrying a conversation with a passenger is no big deal. For Thomas this event can be too much. For most kids a classroom brightly decorated with 15 to 20 kids softly talking while working on the newest cut and paste project under the teacher play by play instructions is a typical kindergarten day. For Thomas this was sensory overload. Before he was diagnosed with PDD he was considered to be ADHD with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Teachers and Doctors alike thought medicating him would be the best treatment. His mother, Audrey was encouraged to home school him because he was unable to maintain himself in the class room. I personally was surprised to hear that her story in the beginning was extremely similar to mine.

After Thomas was diagnosed properly Audrey attempted to put him back in public school for second grade, believing that with a proper diagnosis the school would be able to accommodate for his needs. The new school placed Thomas in the ESE special needs class mainly filled with Autistic children. Fully functioning Thomas was sitting next to the drooling, shaking, non-speaking kids. One teacher and one aide were assigned to a group of 5 to 8 year olds who were all throwing tantrums. Audrey can only describe the environment as ‘a zoo.’ Thomas found himself cleaning up after the other kids. Not only did this do a number on Thomas’s sensory problems, but he wasn’t getting educated at his level. At this point the school’s principle sat down with Audrey and told her, “We just don’t have a place to put him.” Again Audrey felt she was forced to home school her son.

Audrey, like me, is not a teacher by profession. Some things we just don’t remember or wasn’t taught when we went to school. I can’t remember the formula to find the mass of an atom, Audrey was never taught mean, median, mode. Unlike me though, Audrey’s goal as a home schooling mom wasn’t to fix Thomas with hard core discipline so he can go back to public school. She has to actually teach him thus forcing her to re-educate herself. It isn’t an easy job so she also fought with the school board for assistance, understanding, and education suitable for her son. In return she was once threatened to be thrown in jail. Eventually she was able to get Thomas placed in a “homebound” program (provided in North Carolina) for third grade. For one year a certified teacher came to her home and educated Thomas three days a week. Audrey would supplement the program with education on life skills so he may be able to function in society when he is an adult. Not only did Thomas get the education he needed but, he also seemed to be doing better dealing with PDD. Unfortunately, a new director ended Thomas’s enrollment in the program under the basis that he was not physically handicap.

Audrey was again fighting the school board. To date, public education does not have a universal program for functioning autistic kids. Regular “mainstream” class rooms and ESE “romper-room” class rooms are both unsuitable for children with heightened sensory problems yet if you don’t chose one of these you could be tossed in jail. Some private schools offer ‘school with in a school’ programs designed for these children but not all people can afford to pay the bill. So where do we put these kids? How do we educate them responsibly? Thomas’s neurologist believes without a doubt that Thomas will be a functioning adult even a high paid CEO, or business tycoon. Thomas has the potential to be a valuable member of society yet the public school system is educating him like he can only become a burden.

Audrey (being the wonderful mom that she is) has fought enough with the system to obtain revolutionary treatment for Thomas. Currently he is attending public school for a few classes a week. While at school he has a ‘shadow’ adult to follow him around and keep him focused on what he is learning. The ‘shadow’ sits with him in class everyday to help him along. Audrey is still supplementing his education at home but, she has access to everything the school can provide: materials, books, teacher assistance, library, even the guidance office. Nothing is off limits. The school is slowly integrating him into ‘mainstream’ classes and allowing him the leniency his disorder should provide. He may not be ready next year or even the year after that but Thomas is on his way to being able to participate in the world around him.

I know this story to be true because, Audrey is my step-mother. If it wasn’t for her guidance and example, I may not have been able to help my own son.

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