My grad school class is on Tuesdays this term. That means that Tuesday is a really bad day to throw me a curveball. So, of course, last Tuesday I was not particularly pleased to get a call from my son’s teacher, asking me to please come pick him up. Apparently, Ben had been behaving badly and they refused to send him home on the bus.
So, I went to the school to get Ben. The naughty Ben transformed into squealing, wiggling, joyful Ben as soon as he saw me. I learned that Ben had been pinching and (I think) trying to bite his peers, and that these behaviors were worse than they’d been. While we do see some of the aggression they saw at home, what we saw that day wasn’t any different from usual.
The next morning was a bit rough, because the bus arrived while Ben was engrossed in the computer. This abrupt transition was unpleasant, but I managed to get him on the bus. Later, after I fell asleep (after a night of mostly not sleeping), I got another call. I had to go pick Ben up again. Same bad behaviors, same transformation, same typical day at home (despite the change in schedule).
That alone was enough to make me worry and wary, but there’s more. Not only did I have to take Ben home, but Ben wasn’t allowed back until we had a meeting. They didn’t use the word “suspended,” but it certainly felt like my son was being suspended.
So, Ben spent the last hour or so of Tuesday, half of Wednesday, and all of Thursday and Friday out of school. (We had our meeting Friday afternoon. Today is his first day back.)
I’ll tell you about the meeting in another post, but first I want to share my worries and my wariness.
First, we have a child who, while verbal, cannot effectively use language to communicate novel ideas. If something is wrong in a particular environment, the only way he can communicate that is through his behaviors. His verbal and written communication skills simply are not adequate to tell us something that isn’t a part of his carefully developed rote lexicon. For example, Ben can tell us he wants ice cream, but he can’t tell us that he’s overwhelmed. Ben can tell us he wants to go outside (to play, though he doesn’t say that part), but he can’t tell us if he’s being abused. To communicate these more complex issues, all he can do is act out.
Second, Ben’s school has been undergoing a lot of staff changes lately. There are a lot of new people in that building, and I’m not even sure how many there are. This means there are people who are not tried-and-true working with my son.
Third, there have been a lot (at least, from my perspective it seems like a lot) of stories in the news about kids, particularly kids without effective communication skills, being abused in school.
So, I bet you see where I’m going with this. You know that perseverating thing that autists tend to do—I do that, too. My mind comes to a logical possibility and gets stuck, especially if it’s really bad or really good. For those who might not have gone to the same place I did, let’s do the “math”:
1 (Ben doesn’t want to go to school.) + 1 (New people.) + 1 (Opportunity for abuse.) = 3 (Momma bear has claws, and teeth when necessary, and if someone is abusing my son I’m going to tear them apart!)
Half of Wednesday, all of Thursday, and half of Friday were spent perseverating on my mental arithmetic. Now, I kept telling myself there were other possibilities, but my mind kept going back to this possibility. Luckily, I was wrong. Sometimes I just love being wrong!