Sunday, November 28, 2004

A teacher's response to stories of classroom abuse of autistic children

Special Education News and Links: | Local & State
You can have all the training and book knowledge as possible, but after days of not meeting the goals that parents, the school and now the No Child Left Behind Act places on teachers, there is strain and stress that no amount of training can alleviate...

...Training in correct procedures - yes important. But what about support/counseling for how to personally deal with a student that repeatedly bites you or rips your clothes. How do you deal with the every day? Not with the student, but in the teacher's head. You are faced with attacks towards you every day - it isn't personal, but it can feel that way. What about those days when all you can remember is the bad?

Stacy has a much longer comment than usual, triggered by allegations of teacher abuse of autistic children. I understand something about what she describes. A teacher (or parent) in this situation is akin to a spouse in an abusive relationship; save that in this case the "abuser" is fundamentally powerless and vulnerable.

We have a serious social problem with the education of special needs children. It's always been a tough problem, but I think it's going to get worse.

The problem is it costs much more to educate a special needs child than an average child. From a purely market-driven perspective the most efficient way to handle the "unproductives" is to eliminate them. That was, as far as we can judge, often the effective historic approach. I call that "leaving them to the wolves".

From about 1970 to 1995 we moved to another approach -- which as to provide additional resources based on need. I think that peaked with Clinton and the ADA -- though even then the Feds mostly provided unfunded mandates.

Cultures change. I think we're moving back towards the "wolves". It's not a matter of money alone; we're far richer now than we were in 1992. It's a matter of cultural milieu. One of the great divides between Democrats and Republicans in the last twenty years has been attitudes towards the disadvantaged. Republicans espouse "equal opportunity", by which they seem to mean "let the wolves sort it out". Democrats have spoken of, and sometimes acted on, the idea of protecting the weak. I think, whatever labels the parties end up getting, we're moving as a nation to the Republican axis.

In this transition, special needs, and disadvantaged, children are the canaries in the coal mine. Those teaching them will share their fate -- until they decide on another career.

Advocates for the disadvantaged have to adapt to changing conditions, even as we fight to slow the retreat. How to do that is something I'm working on ...

In the meantime, teachers like Stacy may benefit from creating support groups, and should have anonymous counseling as a part of their support system.

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