Thursday, July 5, 2018

We have failed the children.

I am writing this in response to an article published in the Globe and Mail about Children with Special needs in Ontario being asked to stay home from school for at least part of the day.

I'm not a parent of a special needs child in Ontario but I'm a parent of a special needs child who has experienced this EXACT thing.

Before I continue let me say that this has been a tough year for school administrators, teachers, aides, my sons and myself.  I am not attempting to lay blame on anyone for what has transpired. This is simply a small portion of what I have experienced this year.

I am NOT writing this to suggest I have the answers.
I am NOT writing this to demean any person that has worked with and for my son - tirelessly.

So what AM I saying then?

We have failed these special needs children.

My oldest son was suspended from school in November for asking for a pair of scissors so that he could kill the principal and kill himself. He is 11 years old and has been diagnosed with FASD. His functional age is somewhere in the 2 - 3 year old realm. He is a big boy - 5'9'' and over 230 pounds and he towers over most people in his school. He was suspended for Friday and when the weekend was over and I called to find out what was happening with him I was told he could not return to class until there was a plan in place to deal with his outbursts. He had many and they were not pretty. They devolved to the incident in which he asked for scissors. It took MANY MONTHS for a plan to be implemented and when that plan was implemented it was for him to attend school for one hour per day until he could tolerate more time being added.

An assessment was done by the school and a team of professionals which deemed him unsafe to be in school. I have never seen this assessment.

I do not doubt that the things he was doing in school caused him to be deemed unsafe. I don't doubt the horrible experience of those in the school who were dealing with him. I support the decision that was made that said " the traditional school environment is too much for this kid to handle" - (although nothing was ever said so concisely). I don't want to be the parent of a kid that goes to school and hurts others. Absolutely not. My kid is not a kid who fits into a traditional classroom setting  - and I get that.

What I AM saying is - there is no place for these kids. There is no place for MY SON in the educational system. Trying to advocate for him was an absolute nightmare in which a top school official called me a "liar" in one meeting in front of a HOST of professionals sitting around the table to attempt to solve this problem. (Needless to say that meeting was a treat to attend).

Getting him to school for one hour per day was RIDICULOUSLY difficult and impossible to maintain. I doubt any family with working parents could support this schedule.  I work full time and I had to find a full time babysitter who could take an eleven year old ALL day, every day,  - but get him to school for one hour of those days. I was blessed to be able to find someone amazing enough to take him, but she was not able to get him to school every single day. Neither was I. We both live more than 30 km from the school in one direction, and that's just ONE of the obstacles we faced.

There was no shortage of time and effort spent on trying to get him back to school. We had ENDLESS meetings with countless professionals - one meeting lasting longer than five hours into the evening.

We have failed these children.

The issue isn't the individuals in the school - some of them genuinely like my guy and are willing to work with him.
The issue isn't the funding  - there's a pretty significant chunk of change to support my guy in school.
There was simply no solution that worked for the school and worked for the family that provided any opportunity for my guy to learn. He is capable of learning.

He can't read or write. He can't do math. He has no friends. He has two places in the world where he feels safe to be himself  - where he is not a threat to anyone, but a kind and thoughtful and exceptionally hard working young man.

There's a handful of people who really want my kid to succeed, including people at his school, but there are no easy answers and while we look for solutions we are losing the kids.

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