As we look at the possibility of some changes that may come in our lives, I realize that I may have to be putting my son back in the care of professionals – those individuals that have chosen a career in caring for our children or loved ones with special needs… in our case, autism. My intent here is to help raise awareness of some of the undesirable behaviours that are directed toward children and those with special needs. These behaviours are, many times, at the hands of those we entrust to care for our loved ones.
Before I go any further, I want to make this very clear, I DO NOT group all ‘professionals’ in the same light as those that I am going to bring to your attention. There truly are some amazing people that work with those with special needs and I applaud them for the work that they do. It is far from easy, but it also can be one of the most rewarding things you could ever do! As parents, we love our children despite their challenges and appreciate the unique way that they approach life. There are times when I love to view the world through my son’s eyes… the honesty… the purity… and I believe that if more people lived this way, the world would be a better place.
Many will know that my son is 8-years old… and normally when I say that he jumps up and down with excitement saying ‘I’m ALMOST 9 mommy!’ And every time he does that, my heart melts a little more. I love my son… he is my inspiration… he is my rock and despite our struggles, I wouldn’t change anything about him. As his parent, I would do anything for him… anything to protect him. I would think most parents would say the same about their children.
I’ve become, sadly enough, a bit of a helicopter mom. But really… how could I not be? In a school setting alone, my son was bullied, verbally abused by staff and there were ongoing safety concerns due to his flight risk issues which were never really taken seriously. Not even when he actually would ‘escape’ the school setting. When these types of things happen…along with things that I would read or hear in the news… how could I not ‘hover’ at this stage of his life. When I was catching up with the news yesterday, this was one of the first headlines that I saw after turning on my computer: TDSB special needs teacher charged with sexually assaulting student. In actuality is wasn’t a student… but students… two 12-year old boys that went to the school where this man was a teacher. Alright, these two boys were not special needs, but that doesn’t make it acceptable. This man is a professional that parents have entrusted their children with… that’s all that needs to be said.
A week ago this headline caught my attention: California Teacher Accused of Putting Sleeping Pills into Toddlers’ Sippy Cups. This article refers to children under the age of 2… yes, I said 2… that had a teacher put sleeping pills into their sippy cups while at daycare. Seriously?!? UNDER TWO!!! What she did was not only a criminal act, but we all know the reality is that she could have killed or seriously harmed any of these children. These children that again, parents trusted would be safe as they dropped them off at daycare. Have I got you thinking yet?
Well, as I was chatting on Facebook yesterday about some of these news headlines, one of my friends brought this to my attention: Hidden cameras capture abuse of 31-year-old autistic son in his L.A. home. As many aging parents will find they have to do, this mother hired a company to provide in-home care for her son Cameron, who has autism. When she started noticing bruises on his back, she installed hidden cameras in an attempt to see what was happening. The video shows the treatment that Cameron had to endure each day from workers that were hired from Jay Nolan Community Services in Los Angeles.
I wonder how many of you are aware of the Judge Rotenberg Center in Canton, Massachusetts. The Judge Rotenberg Center actually uses electric shock and restraints on the students who are sent there. 18-year old Andre McCollins used to be a student at the Center until the day came where he was asked to remove his jacket by staff and did not respond. What happened after that is unimaginable! Andre was subdued by several staff members and strapped to a table where staff proceeded to administer 31 shocks over the next few hours while he screamed for help. Andre’s mother filed a lawsuit against Judge Rotenberg Center and as a result of that… and despite the Center’s wishes (go figure!)… the video of Andre’s torture was released to the public. I won’t put this video on my blog direclty as it’s just too graphic, but here is the link if you want to view it… I am warning you though, it’s incredibly hard to watch.
A group called Occupy the Judge Rotenberg Center has, for over twenty years, been trying to close the facility down. They describe Judge Rotenberg Center as a ‘school of last resort’ for for children with developmental disabilities (many of their students are autistic) or other difficulties which eschews the use of psychiatric medications in favor of physical restraints and aversives, including the use of two-second skin shocks.
Andre McCollins, according to authorities, was left in a catatonic state after his incident. It’s hard to believe that there are people in the world that think that this ‘treatment’ accomplishes anything. The UN considers shock ‘therapy’ torture and yet the Center is still able to administer it on it’s students. McCollin’s mother stated that she had no idea that this kind of treatment was used in the school. Do you really think she would have signed her son up to this school if she had? I doubt it! Again, it’s all about sharing this information and making people aware of what is going on. This is today… this is now… and NOBODY deserves this kind of treatment.
After stories like this, I sit there and think to myself, how can I truly trust anyone with the care of my son?
Trust… that’s a hard word for me. I don’t talk about trust an awful lot as the past few years have removed a big part of my ability to trust others, particularly in regards to my son. I didn’t used to be that way. I gladly took him to nursery school every day from the time he was 2-years old. It was an amazing experience! The staff was wonderful as were the kids and their parents! He loved it and so did I. Then we hit the public school system and I was excited for him to be moving on to the next stage of his life. I had already gone through the anxiety stage about leaving him in the care of someone else and it had gone well… so it shouldn’t be any different at public school, right? Suffice it to say, I learned the hard way that it was very different. There were more students, less teachers, less supports, less funding and higher frustration levels on the part of staff at the school. It’s a system that needs a lot of improvements and like so many things, it’s our kids that suffer because of it.
I’m not saying you can’t trust anyone… though there are days I feel that way, I realize that is not very realistic. As I said earlier, there are professionals out there that do care and love what they do… but there are also those that don’t and those individuals, I believe, are the ones we see in videos such as the one I shared today. As a special needs parent, my biggest fear is what is going to happen when I am not here anymore. Right now, I can be there to help ensure my son is safe, but what happens when I am no longer able to do that? Who is going to ensure that individuals like those in the video, have no part of his life? I wish I could answer that…
Children have the right to live a life where they are able to feel safe and secure. They should not have to deal with abuse, bullying, torture or anything else along those lines. As parents, and as a society, we need to protect our children… give them a voice… and stand up for what is right! Saying that, think of individuals like Cameron, and believe me, there are a lot of them… doesn’t he deserve better? Don’t they ALL deserve better?
I encourage you to at least share the video about Cameron with others so that we can bring some awareness to this type of treatment and the fact that it needs to stop… and it needs to stop now!