When Jen and I gave up the Autism Scholarship a year and a half ago and placed Martin in the newly created public school Autism classroom, we were tired of trying to micro-manage Martin’s education as well as care for him the rest of the time. We were tired of having to hold the hands of tutors, apologize to private school parents and calm the fears of administrators and teachers. Frankly, we wanted six hours a day when we would not have to deal with Martin crises. We privately joked with one another that at least at this school they couldn’t kick our kid out. Now, however, that axiom is looking a little presumptuous.
In December of last year, Martin was sent home for the first time. When I got there to pick him up his teacher shared with me the Behavior Data Sheet she had been keeping regarding Martin. In the preceding week Martin had hit other children 21 times and faculty an additional 31 times. That day alone he’d struck one of his teachers 9 times. In each subsequent pick up his teacher recounted a similar story: Martin would randomly hit a child. When the teacher would try to discipline him or even remove him from the room he would start attacking them. Often his attacks would be completely passionless. He would just start hitting.
After three or four times, Jen and I asked Martin’s principal if we could meet with her to discus alternatives to sending Martin home. My business was picking up and I didn’t really have time to care for my son during the day. Finding childcare for a boy on such short notice and under such circumstances was impossible. Also, the punishment didn’t seem to be helping anything. The last two times he’d seemed happy to be going home.
Two weeks before Christmas we attended a meeting with the Director of Student Services of the school district, the principal, two school psychologists, Martin’s occupational therapist, his speech therapist, his teacher, a child therapist Martin sees once a week and one or two people whose purpose I cannot recall. They were lovely people. All of them. And they all adored Martin. We spent the first six minutes talking about what a smart, funny and sweet kid he is.
Then the principal’s story of how much she loved him turned into a story of how much time she was spending with him. An average of an hour a day over the preceding weeks. The principal of a school of 450 students. She couldn’t keep up with this. When Martin’s behavior prevented him being with his teacher, when he kicked them one too many times, when he started tearing a room apart, the principal was the last resort. We spent the rest of the meeting trying to figure out the causes of this behavior and strategizing ways to counter it.
That was four and a half months ago.
(This post is part 3 of a 6 post series)