It is common for children with an Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and others with physical/neurological disabilities to face difficulties and discrimination in their lives. What is often not so obvious is the affect that this kind of ignorance and intolerance can have on the parents and other family members, and the consequences they can face due to it.One of the places that most clearly displays this kind of short-sighted discrimination is, unfortunately, one that should be the safest environment for our children, that is in school. By law , all our children have a right to an education; it is the school’s responsibility to provide it. However, it is often the case that not only do these children not receive the education they deserve, but, sometimes, educators seem to go out of their way to make things as difficult as possible for them and their families.
One glaring example of this type of behavior reared it’s head last week in the St. Louis, MO area when the mother of a student with Asperger’s syndrome was arrested when she went to the aid of her son. We’ll lay out the basic facts of the incident here, and let the KMOV TV-4 report, St. Louis County mother furious after being arrested for consoling son, speak for itself.
- On Thursday, March 20, Niakea Williams was at home when she “received a frantic phone call from the teacher (at Walnut Groves Elementary School), Michael (her 7 year old son) was panicking.”
- After getting the call, Williams immediately went school where she was buzzed in by school officials.
- A teacher who saw her enter the school asked what was wrong. “I said something is wrong with Mikey and proceeded to go straight to my son,” stated Williams.
- She got to her son’s classroom and immediately started to console him.
- Then the school principal arrived and informed her that she had violated school policy by not signing in. Instead of trying to understand the mother’s actions in the emergency and overlook the infraction, which could have easily been rectified if the principal had brought the book with her to have Williams sign in, she called the police.
- As police responded to the “unauthorized entry to a school” call, the school was also put on a 12-minute lockdown.
- Four police officers escorted Williams out of the classroom, in front of her already emotionally disturbed child. She was handcuffed and taken to police headquarters.
- She was arrested and detained on trespassing charges, even though Williams was a known parent at the school. In fact, she had met with the principal just the previous day on a separate issue.
Watch the KMOV News Video, St. Louis County Mother Furious After Being Arrested for Consoling Son
School Principal’s Actions Generate Strong Online Response
While the KMOV report had no further details about Ms William’s current status, we don’t thing that we’ve heard the end of this episode. We will keep an eye on the situation and provide updated information as it becomes available. The Ferguson – Florissant school system is currently on Spring Break.
As could be expected, this incident has generated quite a bit of reaction after being picked up by national news outlets. The Yahoo News report of the incident, Mom arrested while trying to console special needs son in school, has generated more than 3,500 comments, many of them similar in tone to this one:
[blockquote cite=”Lisa”]“My child has Aspergers. This is just one of the reasons we chose not to use the public school system. These actions were uncalled for and a complete waste of law enforcement time and money. The principal should be charged with making a false police report. She knew that this was not an intruder, the school had called her to come and get her son. Just what our kids need to see a mom being arrested in front of kids. This principal has no business being in the public school system.” [/blockquote]
Autistics that cannot communicate verbally face similar problems when dealing with their respective school systems and uncaring or uninformed educators that refuse to take the time to understand these students’ individual needs. They get warehoused in so-called “Life Skills” classes that supposedly teach them how to perform simple tasks like feeding themselves without regard for the possibility that these individuals are actually intelligent and have something to say.
Some non-verbal autistics discover supported typing, a type of Facilitated Communication (FC) that allows them to communicate through a computer keyboard or other type of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) device that allows them to demonstrate the fact that they are more intelligent than most people believe. One of the subjects they first “talk” about after finding their voice is the problems they’ve faced and the frustration they have felt when dealing with their school systems. One typer, John Smyth, the son of Saved By Typing’s program director, has written eloquently about this subject on his personal website, AuthenticJohn.com.
[blockquote cite=”John Smyth, AuthenticJohn.com”]“I remember the sad time in lifeskills. waiting for someone and REALLY SEEING THAT THEY WOULD NEVER COME AND FIND ME, REALIZING I WAS TRAPPED IN A BODY THAT WAS A TOMB, TOTALLY REAFFIRMING AND POISONING ALL SADNESS INTO DESPAIR.”[/blockquote]
Read John Smyth’s heartfelt poem about his feelings of isolation and frustration, The Ember.
1. No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) (US Dept. of Education website opens in new window)
2. Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) (US Dept. of Education website opens in new window)