A Father’s Anger (guest post by Spectrummy Daddy)
I haven’t written about this, because I’ve been too hurt, too indignant, but most of all just too weary. Spectrummy Daddy, however, has settled on angry, and he’ll tell you why. Please note that LLG (lovely little girl) is another pseudonym for Pudding….
Recently, we’ve tried to find a school that will take Lovely Little Girl. It can be difficult, but there are numerous remedial schools that have fine reputations here in Johannesburg who aim to mainstream their students. That’s what we’re looking for, a place that will take her, and help move her to a normal school. It’s one of the problems we have: Schools won’t take her because she’s only been involved in Autism centered programs, but she can’t get in to a school to give her the chance. It’s a vicious cycle.
So when we got an appointment with one of these remedial schools and they said they’d take her on a trial for 3 days, I was excited but also a little scared. 3 days isn’t long for someone who isn’t on the spectrum to get acquainted with new surroundings. Heck, I take at least a week, and I’m purportedly neurotypical. Still, it was a chance to get going and maybe have her ready for a new school next year. We didn’t prepare her as well as we should have, but sometimes it is better to have her at her worst to make sure the school knows what they’re getting. Usually, though, in a new environment LLG is a bit timid at the beginning. I was hoping she would steal the hearts of the teachers and they would say how excited they were to have her coming the next year.
It wasn’t to be. They had her for 3 days (actually 2 1/2) and called afterwards to tell us that they couldn’t provide for her, and we should try an autism only school. Never mind that everyone that has ever had my lovely daughter in a class or therapy tells us that she is a prime example of a child that would blossom with mainstream schooling. Never mind that you really can’t tell anything from 2 1/2 days of school observation. Never mind that they used words that showed they were fixated on her being on the autism spectrum. No, they couldn’t help her.
You know what? If they truly didn’t have the ability to help my daughter, then I would be ok with that. I’m not going to force them to take her when it wouldn’t be beneficial to do so. I have her needs to look out for as well. What really steams me is that it appears that they didn’t even try. 2 1/2 days doesn’t tell you anything about my lovely daughter. They said she went on “elopement” during her first day to go and jump on the trampoline. That’s a particularly “autistic” phrase. My question is: Did you tell her it wasn’t time to jump on the trampoline, or did you leave her out there to continue jumping? Did you lay out the rules for jumping on the trampoline? How many kindergarten children, seeing a trampoline at school, would not go and try to jump on it? But, because my daughter has autism you assume that she just does her own thing and can’t be told to come join the circle? REALLY?!?!?
Also, the fact that it was only 2 1/2 days. That’s all they gave her. She doesn’t come out of her shell until at least day 3, and even then it’s only a little bit. New school environment, new teachers, what little kid wouldn’t be a little off. Heck, I remember crying for my mother when I went to Kindergarten, and she worked in the same school! (I was a bit of a wuss.)
The worst part is, my daughter loved it there. She talked about her new school, and cried when we took her back to the school we have her in. That’s what upsets me the most. That my wife and I had to tell her that she couldn’t go back to the new school, because it wasn’t to be. I’ve promised myself that no one will ever tell Lovely Little Girl that she can’t do something because of her autism. If she wants to be a writer, painter, philosopher, activist or even a mother, no one can tell her no. She will do what she wants to do, all they need to do is give her a chance. This school effectively said she couldn’t handle the work they do there, and that we need to lower our expectations.
My response is that my daughter probably would have gotten bored at their school because she is probably smarter than the teachers, and we need to find a place to help stimulate her mind to reach its full potential. While she needs work on some things (like not poking someone in the chest who wears a Hello Kitty shirt as a way of greeting) in others she’s fine. Heck, I can’t do lenticular puzzles, but she does them in less than 10 minutes. She’s already figured out how to use skeleton keys and how to get things from locked rooms without getting caught. My trouble is making sure she uses her powers for good and not evil.
We’ll find a school to take care of her. I know we will. But this lack of trying by a school whose job it is to help those who need help the most still bothers me. Hopefully I’ll get over it, and one day maybe LLG will use this as the starting point from her speech she gives when she graduates from University at the top of her class. Even if she never reaches that point, I’ll still always believe she can.