Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Dear Noah..when we have a trying day of school here at home...all I have to do is read an article like this one to remind me we made the right choice!

This article scares me. It reminded me of similar scenarios involving you in your previous schools that might have ended up like this one day. MOST of the things this little girl in this article did that got her into trouble....also used to get you into trouble and you also did just about every one. You also LICKED other students and teachers or sniffed them or wanted to HUG them sometimes (which was not allowed either for some reason) and you would also kick, push, shove, and bite. You also made lots of sounds and stomped your feet. You also ran off from the school grounds a few times. You were made to sit within a taped off area on the carpet in the classroom...not ever allowed to move your chair or body outside the taped off square you sat in. You were isolated within a classroom with cardboard petitions around you.....walls the staff made out of you could not see any other kids or see any other parts of the room because they said you disrupted the class...would not listen.....would not do your work......etc. They had STOP SIGNS all over around you which bothered you immensely..(this was in the SECOND kindergarten you that supposedly specialized working WITH autistic kids). Most times you just wanted to GET OUT of the room and I cannot blame you. WHO would not feel a bit claustrophobic and a need to get away from that type of environment? The stories I could tell...and some I have here on this blog in prior extremely upsetting. I still get sick to my stomach thinking about it.

I knew the older you got and the more you might resort to being "physical" in any capacity at school during social situations that set you off.....(instead of being able to VOICE your concerns and opinions) we could one day face a scenario like the one below or worse. It reminded me of when you were in Kindergarten in a school in Colorado and the school made us sign a paper giving them permission to "physically restrain" you if you took off or got into a push/shove situation with another teacher or student to supposedly keep you safe as well as the staff and other children. I ONLY agreed to do that after they showed me what they meant by "restraining, " but there is no guarantee things would not have ended up differently. I did NOT like being made to sign a paper like that and not feeling comfortable about what might happen. THAT only lasted about 1 week before things escalated and I yanked you from that school. BUT.....this is just such a reminder to me of how poorly most schools are set up to handle autistic children at all....and the staff have no clue how to handle situations that come up..or how to pick their battles (like in this story below...why could they have not just allowed that poor little girl to keep her cow hoodie on?) They have no idea how to teach an autistic child anything "social: whatsoever. All they seem to do is reinforce their positions to make our children feel more like a social misfit or outcast than they ever would on their own.

Yesterday was a very trying day for us. You are doing 5th grade language arts (though you are still only in 4th grade)...and while you can read all the work easily....UNDERSTANDING some of the most basic texts of the stories is still very difficult for you. INFERENCES you still have HUGE issues with....those things IMPLIED ....etc. You became so frustrated yesterday doing an assessment on The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. I started to question my decision to homeschool you (via Ohio Virtual Academy)...I wondered if I was cheating you out of the "BEST" possible education you could get by doing things her at home instead of in a local school. Things regarding school here at home are just so much easier when I can do all the homeschooling on my own.....including picking the curriculum......HOW I teach you...etc. BY still following OHVA's curriculum and schedule it has been a challenge for me....but I felt it necessary to follow something specific along with whatever else I would choose to teach order to make sure you would be able to PASS STATE MANDATED tests. Needless to say the pressure has been incredible...with me working full time....teaching you full time.....or trying to. Trying to find ways to incorporate MY ways into what THEY want us to do. Taking you to your occupational therapy, speech therapy and Gateway each week. I find we have little free time these all these things can take up about 14 or so hours out of any given day. I am NOT complaining Noah don't get me wrong.....and after reading this energy is renewed and my faith restored that we did make the correct decision ..the BEST decision for you as far as your education environment...for now at least. I love you Noah...we will just keep plugging away. We can make our own schedule. You can complete your school year when you complete it. I am taking the pressure off us somewhat.


Autistic girl, 8, cuffed after school scuffle

Wednesday, January 14, 2009 | 10:05 AM


The mother of an 8-year-old autistic girl who was arrested after a scuffle with her teachers said it was horrifying to watch her daughter be led away in handcuffs from her northern Idaho elementary school.

Police in Bonner County, Idaho, charged the girl, Evelyn Towry, with battery after the arrest Friday at Kootenai Elementary School.

Even though prosecutors dismissed the case Tuesday, the family is considering legal action against the school. They say their daughter was physically restrained to the point of causing bruises and is now tormented by memories of the incident.

The mother of an 8-year-old autistic girl who was arrested after a scuffle with her teachers said it was horrifying to watch her daughter be led away in handcuffs from her northern Idaho elementary school.

Police in Bonner County, Idaho, charged the girl, Evelyn Towry, with battery after the arrest Friday at Kootenai Elementary School.

Even though prosecutors dismissed the case Tuesday, the family is considering legal action against the school. They say their daughter was physically restrained to the point of causing bruises and is now tormented by memories of the incident.

Spring Towry said she got to the school Friday just in time to see 54-pound Evelyn -- who was diagnosed at age 5 with Asperger's Syndrome, a high functioning form of autism -- being walked to a police car with two officers at her side.

"She started screaming 'Mommy, I don't want to go! What are batteries? What are batteries?'" Towry said. "She didn't even know what she was arrested for."

Towry, who lives in Ponderay, said Evelyn told her that she had been refused entry into a school Christmas party that had been delayed until after the holidays because of a string of snow days, because she refused to take off her beloved "cow costume" -- a hoodie with cow ears and a tail.

Towry said Evelyn, who loves Spongebob Squarepants, told her she was put in a separate classroom away from the party, but when she tried to leave, the teachers told her to stay put. Evelyn did not listen, Towry said, and the adults physically restrained her.

"She reacted in a violent way to the physical restraint," Towry said.

Towry said her daughter demonstrated for her how she was held down by her arms and legs. And Towry videotaped the thumb-sized bruises she says were left on Evelyn's legs from the incident.

"She said 'I was very scared,'" Towry said. "She told me she was being hurt."

Dick Cvitanich, superintendent of the Lake Pend Oreille School District, which includes the school where Evelyn was a student, said the school called police because "there was escalating behavior that resulted in what we perceived to be an assault on staff."

At a hearing on the case Tuesday, the prosecutor "said that he didin't think at this time it would be beneficial to pursue it becauase of her age and, of course, her condition," Towry said.

Evelyn was at court for the hearing, but "she didn't exactly know what was going on," Towry said.

'Ongoing Problems' With Autistic Student

Cvitanich said Evelyn's outburst Friday was the culmination of a series of incidents "that demanded staff intervention."

"It's definitely not typical," he said of the decision to call police on a child as young as Evelyn, "and not something we particularly want to do or like to do."

Towry said her daughter didn't even meet the minimum age requirement of 10 to be booked at the county juvenile detention center.

Bonner County Police Lt. Ror Lakewold said the police report indicated the child -- who he declined to name because of her age -- "hit, kicked and spit on teachers."

Lakewold said there was also a complaint that the child grabbed a teacher in a "sexually sensitive place," not in a sexual way, but to cause pain.

Towry said that complaint stemmed from Evelyn pinching her teacher's breast, but she believes Evelyn wasn't aiming for any spot in particular. She was just fighting to be let loose.

"Teachers and the principal wished to pursue charges because they felt there were ongoing problems and this was the only way to resolve it," Lakewold said.

But Towry said her daughter thinks she got into so much trouble simply because she didn't want to take off her cow costume.

When asked what she likes best about school, Evelyn responded quickly and emphatically.

"Nothing," she said. "I don't like school."

And Towry said Evelyn won't be going back to Kootenai Elementary School, where she has been suspended for between two and 10 days.

"I fear for her safety and mental well-being," she said.

They haven't decided yet if Evelyn's 6-year-old sister, who does not have a developmental disability, will remain there or be transferred along with Evelyn.

Nothing formal has been filed yet, but she and her husband are considering legal action, Towry said.

"I would like them to learn a lesson that they should not treat children with disabilities in this manner," she said.

There's a lot of children with autism in the world now, she pointed out, and school officials need to learn how to properly discipline them.

Raising a Child With Asperger's

Towry said there was no indication there was anything wrong with Evelyn, the third of her four children, when she was a baby.

"All she really wanted from me as a baby was to nurse," Towry said, adding that Evelyn spoke early, walked early and hit all of her other developmental goals either on time or ahead of schedule.

Towry said she and her husband started getting calls about Evelyn's behavior when she was in kindergarten, before they moved to Ponderay. School officials told them the little girl would act out by making animal noises or stomping her feet.

"I guess I probably knew there was something wrong with her," Towry said. "When you're a parent it's difficult to think there's anything wrong with your child."

But it wasn't until they moved to Ponderay and put Evelyn into kindergarten at Kootenai that they got a diagnosis. Towry said she was called to the school on Evelyn's first day when her teacher said the girl began acting out in class, again making animal noises among other behaviors.

When the Towrys took the teacher's recommendation and had their daughter tested, they were shocked by the diagnosis.

"It scared me," Towry said. "I had no idea what Asperger's Syndrome was."

In Towry's mind at the time, autistic children drooled, were disconnected, didn't talk, didn't communicate. And none of that was Evelyn.

Towry said Evelyn isn't a perfect child at home. She sometimes gets into shoving matches or the like with her younger sister over sibling rivalry-type issues, but Towry said those situations are easily diffused with words and have never risen to the level of what Evelyn and police say occurred Friday at Kootenai Elementary School.

"She was not a bad kid," Towry said.

1 comment:

Betsy said...

This makes me sad. Yes, why couldn't she just keep the cow hoodie on? We have had some aggression problems with our Alex over the past 3 years. They seem to have escalated in the last two months. It's so hard with a non-verbal child....there isn't any conversation or reasoning with him. Just today I was looking on the internet for possible solutions. :(