10 Year Old With Autism Arrested

The Washington Post recently reported that a 10 year old boy with Autism was arrested at his school for a 3rd degree felony charge.

I read this story with great interest as a parent of a child with Autism and as an educator. The story is no doubt incomplete.  There is always more information than what the public is given. One thing is for sure, getting upset or offended by the vile comments made by those with little understanding or compassion would be futile. I’m here to educate and foster constructive dialogue.

No two individuals on the spectrum are alike. For example, some cannot communicate verbally, while others, like the 10 year old at the center of the report, can verbalize quite well.  And, yes, just like the boy does in the video, that may include dropping the proverbial “f-bomb”.  But I hear that from neurotypical students every day. So, it’s inconsequential to the story as far as I’m concerned. I am more concerned how instances like these, as outrageous as they are, can serve as a learning opportunity for all.

While we cannot ignore the  “throw ’em in jail” attitude when dealing with difficult students. Our culture has a long history of this easy way out.  But this incident, like most, was likely avoidable. It highlights the need to better train our public educators and to cultivate a greater understanding in the hearts and minds of the general public on the subjects of Autism and neurodiversity.  A properly trained educator will better detect the triggers that can lead to a tantrum, meltdown, or an aggressive episode.

This is an opportunity for understanding and new learning -not judgment. My prayers are with the boy, his mother, as well as the educators involved.

 

 

 

 

Autism Stepdad Training: Mischief Makers

In my previous Autism Stepdad post I highlighted just a few of the many lessons I’ve learned about being in a family with an Autistic child. But there’s another child in this family, Jakob’s twin brother, Clay.

(Bias alert)

Clay is a very intelligent young boy. During one of our first meetings he asked me, since I’m a teacher, if I could get him a copy of the Periodic Table of the Elements. “That’s a unexpected but welcomed request,” I thought. So, I obliged. And who wouldn’t? Better to encourage those academic curiosities as early as possible.

His vocabulary is a little scary sometimes. In fact, Kerri and I have to be careful what we say around Clay because he deciphers some of our sarcasm and nuances all too easy.   And, just when we think he’s engrossed in one of the many board games he has created, he lets us know he’s heard every word we’ve said.

But one thing I love most is that he sometimes reminds me of how I behaved as a child.

He often prefers the company of adults.

So did I.

He really isn’t all that interested in playing team sports.

Neither did I (although I gave them a shot and prefer to be a spectator).

And, despite his smile and innocent face, he knows how to cause trouble.

So did I.

Just a few days ago he came to me and said, “Kyle, guess what I found.”   Before I could respond he revealed from behind his back two large air-packing pillows that came with our most recent Amazon order and exclaimed:

“MISCHIEF MAKERS!”

I knew then that an air pillow would be popped behind me, unexpectedly, in my near future.

He keeps it in check though, mischief that is . . .well for the most part. It’s part of the joy that is Clay.

At least has yet to go the length I did when I was about his age. I recall once being irritated by a girl that lived down the street. So, the moment I saw her riding toward me on her bicycle I got s ready . . .with a handful of tacks I found in the garage- the kind the required the use of a hammer. With my best effort I threw those tacks all over the street hoping to pop the tires of her bicycle. I thought it was hilarious. My mom thought otherwise. I spent the rest of my “outside time” picking up tacks from the middle of the street. And I’m sure my punishment included a swift hand to the butt.

I don’t want to paint Clay as a constant “mischief maker” because he’s not. He’s a child whose sibling does not play and wonder with him the way my siblings were capable of doing. Other parents of Autistic children know this reality all to well. But children adjust, sometimes with ease, other times with difficulty. Clay is no different. He could easily harbor resentment given some of Jakob’s needs. But he doesn’t and I admire him for it. He loves his brother.

I can’t predict future challenges. But one thing is certain: Clay takes cues from me as I learn to adapt. So, I’m mindful of the words I choose and the tone in which they are spoken. Patience is more that some virtue in this scenario . . .it’s a necessity.   If Clay can live with grace and patience in this family, so can I.