It’s times like these when I wish that I was still more involved in advocacy, but I know that I don’t really have the resources that I need to be able to do much effective advocacy, so all I can do is quietly seethe while watching the world.
I’ve been quiet. I haven’t said anything about Pauline Hanson’s comments, and here’s why:
All she did was say the thing that so many people think. Her comments aren’t even really that shocking.That’s not to say that I agree with her. I don’t think I have agreed with anything she has ever said, but people who are reacting to her comments don’t seem to realise how the educational system often works.
So, let me share my son’s schooling experience:
He started school at a mainstream school completely unsupported. this was despite several letters from different professionals detailing the specific kinds of support he would need in a classroom setting. “We want to see how he does,” they said.
Three months passed. He was continually being punished for “behavioural reasons”.
I wrote to my MP who wrote to the Education Minister who contacted the school. The school was then given the steps they needed to follow to get additional funding in order to provide him with the support that he needed. The school had previously said that they couldn’t get additional funding. That wasn’t true – they just weren’t informed on the process when the system had been changed a year before.
Additional funding was approved. Support was put in place. The last six months of his first year of school went well.
The second year meant a new teacher. She “didn’t have time for any of this stuff”. Support was withdrawn (funding wasn’t, but support was). “He’s been doing so well,” they said.
To the seeming surprise of everybody (but me), the wheels fell off three months later. “Behavioural problems”. He was referred to a specialised school to address those “behavioural problems”. Three months on, the specialised school admitted that maybe his behaviour stems from his disability (who would have thunk it?). They couldn’t help. Their school was more for kids with “behavioural problems” (funny how almost every kid at that school was autistic, right?)
He was referred to another specialised school. This one had on staff OT’s, psychs, speechies, and a music therapist. He did well there. Class size was small (max 6 kids to a teacher plus an assistant). After six months there, he was doing so well that they decided that it was time to reintegrate him back into mainstream.
And that’s when my son asked to be homeschooled. He wouldn’t go back to the school with the bullies (and teachers are included in that word in his mind). He wouldn’t go back to the school were he was expected to watch everyone play during break without participating because “that way he can learn how to play properly.” He wouldn’t go back to the school where he wasn’t allowed to go with on excursions with the rest of his class unless his parent came too.
I’m not blaming the school. I’m not even blaming the teacher who “didn’t have the time.” This is a problem with the system and with society. One reflects the attitudes of the other and vice versa.
So, when someone says something like “autistic children don’t belong in the classroom”, they’re saying exactly what everyone already thinks. They’re saying what autistic kids have heard every day. Saying it out loud isn’t really the problem.