Saturday, May 26, 2012

Hey Village--Keep Your Hands Off My Kid!

I was reading an article the other day about a school aide who was distracted by a 10-year-old boy who has autism because he was fiddling with a loose tooth. She took it upon herself to pull it out. The school nurse checked him out and sent a note home (with the tooth) explaining the situation, and apologizing in advance if it bothered the parents.

Well, hell yeah, it bothered them. The aide pulled out the wrong tooth. One that wasn't loose.

Before you ask, "how could that be if the tooth wasn't loose?", let me just say this: Some kids who have disabilities have sensory integration problems (like my son) and don't feel pain the way other neurotypical people do.

And then there's just the whole WTF factor!  They can't give your kid an aspirin, but they can pull his tooth out?

There is that saying, "It takes a village to raise a child". But what of those villagers who overstep their bounds?

Once when Big Kid was in kindergarten, we got a note home from school. "Please send Big Kid to school wearing both socks and underwear daily." WTF? I laid out all of his clothes each morning. Including socks and underwear. There wasn't a plethora of unaccounted-for unmentionables thrown around his room, so where were they?

After some investigating, we discovered that for at least a week the kid had been stuffing both socks and underwear down an unused heating vent that was left when the house was converted from electric to forced air gas (he also stuffed a bunch of spoons down there for some still-unknown reason). Why? "They're too tight!", he whined. So we switched to boxers and footie socks which didn't feel as constricting.

So while on one hand, I appreciate the school bringing this to my attention, I know that eventually I would have noticed the disappearing socks and undies. Like at laundry time. But my first thought was---how do they KNOW he wasn't wearing underwear? Do they have a designated person who peeks down little kids' pants every day?

Little Guy was so sweet and endearing that some aides thought that he was their child:

Like the aides who either took him to the teachers' break room to eat birthday cake or donuts or brought him homemade cookies constantly, even though it clearly stated in his IEP from the 3rd grade on..."do NOT feed him snacks outside of class parties." Why? Because he had sensory integration issues. He never felt full and would eat until he vomited. He was starting to have a real weight problem, which was documented by his doctors. Little Guy would put on his sad, "I'm hungry even though I had lunch a half hour ago" face and they'd stuff him with cupcakes.

One year there was an aide who took it upon herself to cut his hair. Was it long? No. He had four cowlicks (in the exact same place his dad has them), which defied gravity. She thought that they might lay down if she cut his hair down to his scalp. Did she have any barber training? No. He ended up with 4 bald patches on the back of the head. She ended up with a threat of a restraining order (and a royal ass-kicking) if she came near my kid again.

Early on, the school identified a problem that we worked on for 2 years. Little Guy would run up to anyone friendly to get a hug. Sure, some little kids do that, but we as parents try to make them beware of strangers. A kid with a significant delay has a harder time with the concept, so it might take longer to train him out of it. I mean really, how socially appropriate is it for a full-grown man to run around hugging strangers? Knowing him, and knowing his heart, I think it's sweet, but it would probably scare the hell out of people who don't know him.

Anyhoodie, we were able to get him to stop. For awhile. Then inexplicably, a few years later, when he started middle school, he started up again. I asked his coordinator if she had any idea why he might be doing this. She had no clue. Figured it out in the middle of that school year when I brought Little Guy to school late after a dentist appointment. He had a resource period in the self-contained classroom (the special-needs room).

We poked our heads in the door, and as he was putting his coat and backpack in his cubby, the aide-in-charge hollered, "You can't come in here unless you give everybody some sugar!" So he ran in the room and gave everybody a big hug. urk. Apparently, that was her "rule". Every day. Give a hug to whoever's in the room.

Before you think I'm a terrible ogre, you have to realize that some people who have cognitive disabilities are terribly vulnerable. It's not appropriate for them to run up and press themselves up against other people, especially if they can't differentiate who it's appropriate to hug. Some people aren't nice. Some people are horrible beings, and might see this as an opportunity for abuse. It's just the way the world is, and it's our job as parents AND educators to protect our children and teach them to protect themselves.

I think the coup de gras was the day Little Guy came home from the bus stop in his socks in the snow. Where in the HELL were his shoes? I called the bus barn, and since his was the last stop, they were able to intercept the bus as it came in. They talked to the driver, who didn't notice that the kid didn't have shoes on (not that he should have, I'm not blaming him). They searched the bus and found a pair of boots under some seats.

Well, no, I explained. Those aren't his. He doesn't wear boots.

It took until the next day to figure out what happened. His aide just decided that either I was a neglectful mother or too poor to provide my son with boots when it snowed. Guess she didn't notice the extra pair of dry shoes that were in his locker in case his other shoes got wet.

HE. WON'T. WEAR. BOOTS. It's a sensory thing, fully detailed in his IEP.

She bought him a pair of boots, and sent him home in them, instead of giving me a call and telling me of her concerns. He took them off as soon as he got away from her, and ended up walking home from the bus stop in his socks.

I'm all for the concept of "it takes a village" in principle. I honestly believe that the people I listed above thought they were being helpful. But the "village" needs to remember that I'm the mom, and unless they talk to me first, they need to keep their hands off of MY child.


Beth said...

Good intentions – unless accompanied by knowledge and understanding – are “good” for squat. One would think (hope) a thorough reading of a child’s IEP would be mandatory.
Years ago, a V.P. thought he’d demonstrate to me that my youngest had merely sprained his wrist – took his hand and moved it up and down. Child howled in pain. His wrist had been fractured in two places. So, yeah, hands off children!

Jeanie said...

I heard the story about the kid's tooth and I thougt the same thing-WTF.
Doc's daughter who has Downs Syndrome, now in her 40's, still has the hugging problem. She lost a job in a nursing home because of it and she still can't get the message.
I hope the "village" gets your message.

Warner said...

My kid had problems, but I never ran into anything like that. On the other hand he was in a group residence from 7th to 12th grade and the entire staff knew to be careful with all of the residents.

Ended up with a double Master's from NYU and seems to be making it (late 30s now).

Joanna Jenkins said...

You know... I truly wonder how many teachers, aids and principals actually READ our kids' IEPs. And don't get me started on what their actual "training" is for working with our kids. Yes, there are some great professionals out there but the vast majority seem clueless although their intentions are "good".

Who the hell pulls someone's tooth out or cuts a student's hair!!! That's insane. Grrrrrrrr!

xoxo jj

Ashley's Mom said...

You could have been describing the experiences my daughter has had. I will be so glad when she is out of school for good!

Anonymous said...

That's an amazing list of good intentions gone awry. And some clearly bad intentions. Sometimes a person's just got to learn to TOLERATE stuff--like a kid wiggling a tooth or a child's propensity to free-ball (Mr. G's been undie-free for two years now and we've yet to hear any complaints from his school...).
You could write a book, honey. Heck, you SHOULD write a book. You know. In your spare time.

Brenda said...


AGP said...

This is absolutely beautifull Home