By Kodey Toney
Feel Like A Number
I receive weekly newsletters from Disabilityscoop.com, and the one I read this week scared me. It hit home with something that happened earlier this week. We had a meeting with his principal because Konner has been acting out and having discipline problems. He even tried to kick the principal and has been punished. The problem has been how to punish him when he acts out like this. Many times it’s due to frustration with his disability. I want to tell you a little about the article and how it could impact your child eventually.
The article titled “For Many With Disabilities, Special Education Leads to Jail” was eye-opening for me, but it confirms something that I have known for the past couple years. The school system is not prepared for children with disabilities, including on the autism spectrum, and in turn many of the children are on a path to destruction at an alarming rate. There has to be some help, and to be honest I’m not sure the answer, but we have to work together to make it happen.
The story starts off with an account of a 12-year-old student who was handcuffed in front of his peers and put into a police car outside of his middle school because he lost his temper and hit several teachers. This, as well as Konner’s actions with the principal, is unacceptable, but they also may be unavoidable.
I have told Konner more times than I can count that he cannot hit or kick anyone. This is a problem we have at home constantly, but I’m almost at a loss of what to do. Most of the time he is just kicking or hitting at us as opposed to trying to actually land a blow, but I know that this is also not acceptable.
What we try to do instead is cut the behavior off ahead of time if possible. If Konner is showing signs of frustration or stemming then we know that a meltdown could be right around the corner. This is when we try to make him calm down and remove him from things that could cause him to have a blow-up.
Children with disabilities, especially autism and Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) are impulsive though. This is why we have a problem with cutting off the action.
According to the article, one out of every three children in the juvenile justice system has a disability. These can include emotional disabilities such as bipolar disorder or learning disabilities like dyslexia. Some research even shows numbers as high as 70 percent.
According to data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, a majority of adults in prison have a disability. More alarming is the fact that this number has grown 700 percent since 1970. This number will continue to rise if we don’t find a way to reach out to these children and help them early. That is our job as parents, advocates, and educators.
I don’t know what to attribute this to, though some experts look to the school systems for blame. I think it’s a combination of the systems as well as the parents. The parents often times don’t work to help the schools understand their children’s disability. Many don’t even take the time to understand it themselves and stay in denial because it’s easier than being proactive.
The schools often find it difficult to help the child and find it even easier to just send them out of the classroom instead of working with them to be included.
According to the article, many schools just “lack mental health care, highly qualified special education teachers and appropriately trained staff. Federal law requires schools to provide an education for kids with disabilities in an environment as close to a regular classroom as possible.” The law also says that a child cannot be dismissed for something that is related to their disability. This gets very complicated, but is helpful in certain cases.
Again, I don’t have all the answers, but I have believe that educators and parents need to work together as hard as they can to help our children avoid being statistics.