A common problem that I have experienced in my children’s primary school is their inability to use appropriate discipline for autistic children. The tendency to deliver group punishment or not to be seen disciplining a particular child is problematic for my autistic children. If discipline is directed towards the whole group my children are so sensitive that they can feel that the discipline is directed towards them personally. Coupled with their lack of understanding as to why they are being punished and an acute sense of injustice if they feel they haven’t done anything wrong, the effect of unnecessary punishment can be severe enough to provoke a meltdown.
For my son, this approach to discipline was one of the triggers for his first episode of school refusal (my son is now longer in this school but in special school). That was two years ago now and I was hoping the school (which my daughter still attends) had learnt how to discipline more effectively but it seems not.
On Friday, which also happened to be the national Children In Need day, my aspergers daughter returned home from school complaining that it was the “worst day ever at school”. It was particularly upsetting to see how sad she was as she had left for school that morning so excited at the prospect of getting involved with the activities for Children In Need.
Nevertheless, I asked her to explain what happened and it transpired that during a lesson another pupil was kicking her under the table and calling her names. As a result my daughter stared out of the window at which point she was told by the class teacher that she would have to stay in and miss out on activities such as art and games.
I find it difficult to understand why staring out of the window should be punished in this way, particularly as my daughter has aspergers and processing difficulties. My daughter gets little support in class and is unable to tell teachers her worries so not surprisingly she found her own way of coping with this stressful situation by staring out of the window.
Her behaviour is not a deliberate way of avoiding work, as is clearly the assumption made by the teacher, and is everything to do with her autistic response to the stress she was experiencing at that moment. Yet the teacher appeared to make no effort to find out why she was staring into space and just assumed she was being naughty. Neither did the teacher properly explain to her what was going on. This is sloppy teaching as far as I am concerned and not acceptable considering the school have plenty of written evidence about the nature of my daughter’s difficulties.
What is even crueller is that she was denied full participation of the day’s events, something that she was so looking forward to. The academic nature of school is challenging for my daughter so non-academic opportunities are a welcome break for her which also provide her with opportunities to develop more practical skills. To deny her this seems unnecessarily cruel and out of proportion o the offence of staring into space.
So yet again, I have sent another letter to the school outlining my concerns about the lack of understanding and support for my daughter.
This post is day 21 of the nablopomo challenge where I have to submit a blogpost every day in the month of November.