I like to end my weeks on a positive note for my readers, but that’s not going to happen today. I just read an article about Isabel Loeffler, an eight-year-old autistic girl who spent three hours isolated in a glorified closet, a “time out” room, at school. Read the full story here.
There’s also this story about Jose Gabriel, a three-year-old autistic boy who was left alone on a school bus for more than six hours. He evidently rode the bus to school and was still sitting in the back of the bus when the school day ended – scared, weak and sweating – six hours later. The bus matron was supposed to look after him.
And then there was the heartbreaking story about Alex Barton. In May 2008, his teacher kicked him out of his class saying he was “voted out” by a 14-2 margin. Alex’s classmates also told him why they didn’t like him and his teacher thought that was appropriate.
As the parent of an autistic child I am not only outraged and disgusted by these events, but also deeply saddened. Any parent with an autistic child knows the severe emotional damage these types of events cause. Autistic children are already isolated enough. Putting them in “time out” rooms, neglecting them on the bus and voting them out is EVERY PARENT’S WORST NIGHTMARE. Any one of these things can set an autistic child back for a long long time, obliterating every tiny step forward.
If a perfectly normal high-functioning child were to endure one of these horrible situations, it would scare them, hurt them, emotional scar them, etc. And they understand the world around them. So imagine how much worse it is for a child who doesn’t understand the world around them. Who doesn’t know how to communicate. Who doesn’t know how to speak up. Not to mention these children are BABIES, especially the two boys under five. Who treats young children with such disrespect and cruelty? It is despicable.
We send our ‘distracted ducks’ to school, hoping the teachers and adults in their lives will reach out, understand, protect, embrace and help them. Build their confidence. Encourage their growth. Fuel their spirit. Instead some are emotionally abused, neglected, ostracized, belittled and shattered.
I feel extremely blessed to have outstanding teachers, therapists, relatives and friends in our lives who love my son as much as we do. To Isabel Loeffler, Jose Gabriel, Alex Barton and the parents who must endure and overcome difficult obstacles – I’m rooting for you all. I understand. And to the adults who use poor judgment and let us all down, how dare you.