Tuesday, May 28, 2013

My latest post is now available on Special-ism.  It's all about labels and why we need to advocate against them.

Please hop over and have a read.

Why we need to Advocate Against our Children's Labels
by Gavin Bollard
at Special-ism.


The Adventures of Room 83 said...

Hi! I'm your newest follower. I love your blog. I'm so glad I came across this today :)

The Adventures of Room 83

Lisa Cameron said...


I am not sure if this will be an accepted message, I'm not familiar with posting on blogs but I am part of a family in crisis and need the advice of some parents that have 'been there'.

My 6 year old son has Aspergers (formal diagnosis provided to his school) and was recently physically assaulted by his father from whom I am divorced. (He is not seeing his father at all at the moment and legal proceedings are under way). Since then he has exhibited "exclusion behaviours" in class. After a meeting with the teachers and a counselling Psychologist it was assessed that dealing with the assault matter had resulted in him needing very little further stimulation to push him over his threshold. The teacher and Assistant Principal agreed to let him have self nominated timeouts while we implemented a plan of having an educational psychologist and an OT visit the classroom (at my expense) and write reports as input to a longer term plan. Mid way through this plan (the therapists had visited and the follow-up meeting about to be scheduled)the teacher became concerned that my son was manipulating the time outs even when he didn't need them (a possibility) but hadn't communicated this to me and then the principal witnessed my son being distracted and physically moving around when he shouldn't during a group activity and instantly changed 'the plan' to a disciplinary based one. My son was chastised by the principal immediately in front of his peers, was kept in that lunch hour to discuss the school rules and advised that if he breaks the rules he has 1 warning then straight to the assistant principal. I cannot get the school to clarify the exact behaviours that will lead to this or other consequences or to get confirmation that any efforts have been taken to ensure consistent application across all teachers that supervise him. For my verbally impulsive Aspie, 1 chance per day and you're out of talking other than in the exact timeframe/topic/hand up way required is impossible as is the expectation that he will be completely still for prolonged periods.

I don't know what impact I should expect this new routine to have on my son. I have concerns it will add to his stress and intend contacting a divisions learning support person to discuss an IEP with (as my child's teacher informs me they don't do them at his (NSW public) school.

I guess the advice I am after is how other parents have helped their children cope with rules in a classroom that are not as Aspie sympathetic as they could be? Are there techniques anyone could suggest that he could use when he starts to feel overwhelmed beside removing himself? Any suggestions or shared experiences would be incredibly welcome.

Lisa Cameron

Gavin Bollard said...

Hi Lisa,

It sounds to me like your son clearly needs a "mentor" in the school, if not the classroom. Someone who is like a teacher but is not his teacher.

Usually these mentors could be other special needs teachers or a particularly caring (and interested) other teacher - or even a responsible and much older student.

He needs to have someone on hand at school with whom he can discuss how he feels. Given that the beating occurred at the hands of a male, I'd recommend a female as she'd be less likely to be too imposing.

The self-nominated timeouts, while good, would always have turned into "Free time". I'm confused by how they went though. Surely he wasn't permitted out of the classroom without supervision?

It would be much better if those timeouts were in the form of a supervised library break or if they simply represented some time in a "computer corner" of the classroom to work on a computer-based learning program.

Lisa Cameron said...

Thank you so much for taking the time to reply. I really do appreciate it.

The timeouts were in the form of a retreat to the reading corner in his classroom with a softer chair and books. When genuinely in need of this my son would retreat there and usually just sit staring (shut down) for 5 - 10 minutes till he was ready to just resume activities. On occasions he would sit there and read a book rather than staring and perhaps these were the times he was just task avoiding.

I was so thankful for a teacher than seemed to be accommodating and managing this so well and still have faith in his direct teachers intentions and abilities.

When this plan was in operation my son seemed happy enough at home but each of the few days since the new approach has been implemented he has been teary on collection from school and quick to frustrate or get teary through the evening.

I love the mentor idea. There is a school counsellor available at the school but only 1.5 days a fortnight so maybe a connection with a specific teacher would be better as a mentor. Would you suggest that my son would be able to approach this teacher during breaks (ie ask for her from the staff room) if he felt he needed to discuss something or was upset as well as maybe initially having a scheduled once a week quick check in together?

Thanks so much.


Gavin Bollard said...

Hi Lisa,

Your son should be able to call upon his mentor in times of need. Hence, it's possible that a librarian or someone else not entirely engaged in teaching could be appropriate.

One thing that could be worthwhile is for you to get a copy of the Temple Grandin (2010) movie. It may help you to see things from your son's point of view (particularly anxiety) and also it contains some hints on the role of Temple's mentor, Dr. Carlock.

If your mentor is interested, you might want to point her in the direction of the film too.