Thursday, September 1, 2011

School Failing?

The question that has been floating through my mind for the past few days is this: Is my son failing at school or is the school failing my son?

He's not your average -cookie cutter kid.  He is a puzzle with ever changing pieces...what fits one day may not fit the next.  Yet, he is in a school that is pretty much designed for cookies...plain sugar cookies with the round shape that all fit together nicely in the package.  The world will never revolve around him...he will have to adapt to the world.  The difference is...once he is an adult, HE can decide where he wants to make his place in the world.

If he is uncomfortable being around hundreds of people at one time, he can find a job in a small company. Or perhaps he can work for himself.  If he doesn't want to or is unable to go to a large university, he can choose a small technical school, or community college, or art school.  He can take classes online.  He does not have to choose to be in a large environment with multiple distractions that leave him in sensory overload.  Right now, that is what he is being forced to do.

So we're at the beginning of the school year and we are back to the same issues that we were having last year.  He has already been in trouble for yelling in the hallways at another student.  He is trying to befriend someone who does not want to be bothered.  He is being ignored...he gets angry.  He yells "You don't have to run away from me.  I'm not a monster." It is not in his thought process that he is making the student uncomfortable.  I just want to be a friend.  He has no concept that it's kind of creepy.  He does not naturally read or have a concept of other peoples feelings.   This is called mind-blindness, an Aspergers trait.

He acts impulsively without thought of the results of his actions.  Do you really think that yelling and bringing negative attention to yourself is going to bring you what you want...more friends?  Or will that make people have "weird thoughts" about you?  Will it bring you a reputation of an angry person that people should stay away from? You have to walk through this thought process with him after the damage has already been done.

The thing is...the school is aware of this behavior issue, he did this a couple of times last year.  Yet, they allow him in the hallways, unsupervised during the first week.  I guess they were giving him the benefit of the doubt.  Obviously, he didn't get the memo.  He didn't understand that he was being given an opportunity to make the right choices.  He acted on impulse, out of desperation and anger. He did not past the test.  He did not gain a friend.  What he got instead was an Administrative Directive...a black and white, concrete direction that says, "THIS IS NOT APPROPRIATE BEHAVIOR.  THIS IS NOT ALLOWED!  YOU CAN NOT BEHAVE IN THIS MANNER.  If YOU DO THERE WILL BE NEGATIVE CONSEQUENCES."  If you go out into the world and behave this will not fair well.  You can not yell at your peers.  You are intimidating them! THIS IS WRONG!

Of the same time what he does not realize is that the school has to COVER THEIR ASS!  For liability purposes,  they have to have a documented trail that says, they are doing something about this behavior.  Although, it was their decision to put him out there...hoping that he would swim and not sink.  You see, the school is designed for the masses, for the cookies that are all the same shape and size.  Who march in a row...doing what they are told...doing what is expected.  It is not really designed for those who don't fit the mold.  I can be upset about that...and intense desire to pull him out of the fire before he gets burned.  The thing is...the world is not designed that way either.

He is swimming upstream...against the tide.  Except, public school is not really a river or a's more like a vast ocean.  He is a big fish on the outside, but on the inside...he's a guppy.  He does not naturally have what it takes to make it.  He needs a great deal of guidance and supervision.   He should not be put out there to sink or swim without having some intense swimming lessons.  Even then, there are no guarantees when you are dealing with mental illness (bi-polar NOS) Aspergers and impulsive behavior, that he will be willing and able to do the right thing.

He does have an intensive support system at this public school.  He has a special education program and teacher who are working very hard to support him.  Do I always agree with the decisions they make?  No...I do not.  The thing is...he is nearly 16 years old, ultimately HE needs to make some good decisions and be responsible.  There will not always be someone there to coddle him and hold his hand.   His head is thick!  It takes a lot to get through to him and then he has all of these lovely road blocks and filters that cloud his judgement.  Ultimately, that's what we are all trying to teach him independence and self-responsibility.  It's a painful process.  It's going to take a lot of work from all, us and most importantly from him.

This is an ongoing saga that I can not complete in one writing session.  One thing I know for that there will be more episodes to follow in this mini-series called life with Aspergers.

I love to hear your thoughts!
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