I am just being mom, like any mom, a typical mom worrying over nothing, am I? By the way, there is nothing wrong my grammar here. I am just being sarcastic.
How well do you really know your kids? It is shameful for me to admit that I don’t know my son that well. I judge him by how he behaves at home. Though I know that our kids are well behaved at school and listen to the teachers, I didn’t expect my son’s behavior to differ much at school vs. at home.
I was somewhat surprised at how off the mark I was when mentioning to my son’s teacher my worries about his writing at the recent parent-teacher conference. My son’s teacher looked at me as if I was speaking an alien language. Sensing her confusion, I tried to explain that he was always reluctant to work on reading comprehension where he was required to write complete sentences. Furthermore, he was mad at me for signing him up for two 45-minute writer’s workshops and complained about how boring the sessions were. When realizing that he had to submit a story for the next session, he yelled at the idea. Seeing that he couldn’t escape the fate, he didn’t even come up with the storyline on his own. It was a story adapted from a Lego video game called “Ninja Go”. Anyway, we were still happy that he wrote something with a descent length, proper sentence structure and correct grammar. The teacher applauded our efforts in engaging him in different activities but responded that he wrote pretty well at school and that his reading and math were all above average. There was nothing that he needed to improve. Was it much ado about nothing? I started to wonder.
Anyway, I showed up at the school the next day to turn in the check and the form for the ICA Food Shelf fundraising event. The school was off that day for the parent-teacher conferences. Outside the classroom were binders consisting of students’ writing assignments for parents to view to pass the time while waiting for their turn to start the parent-teacher conference. My son’s teacher was having a conference with a parent while I showed up so I browsed the students’ writing assignments since I didn’t get the chance to do it the day before. I finally came to realize why my son’s teacher was totally awestricken by my concern while reading his writing assignments and those of his classmates. What a huge difference!
Talking about my wrong conclusion from the false impression, I always thought that one of his classmates, the one who has been in the same class with my son since he was three years old, has a learning disability. I reached that conclusion in the past based on how this kid interacted with others. This kid has problem controlling his temper and following the teacher’s order. He doesn’t know what a space bubble means and has trouble keeping out of other peoples’ space. He cannot take no for an answer. I once saw him in rage, picking up several chairs and throwing them to the ground while I was picking up my son from the after school care program. It was somewhat a scary scene. The after school care program staff just left him alone to vent his frustration. I don’t know if the staff has any training on how to deal with kids like him. This kid finds it difficult to interact socially and control his own behavior. I always thought it to be a learning disability when kids act like that. However, one’s emotional intelligence does not equate one’s academic intelligence. This kid is actually a pretty bright kid; this realization came to me after I read his writing assignments and after hearing my son indicating that he was the other kid besides my son to get the math challenge pack, a 50 or so pages of challenging math problems, to work on at home.
I later learned that this kid’s problem was a syndrome called Asperger’s Disorder. This type of disorder is sometimes referred to as higher functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder. Some kids with Asperger’s Disorder lack social awareness of salient interpersonal and social constraints on behavior, which can result in extremely violent acts. He once hit my son’s head with a huge toy so hard that my son was sent to the nurse’s office and we got a call and later received a report to watch for any possible head injury. I don’t know what triggered that incident. That happened when my son was in Kindergarten. However, they had had trouble getting along since they were three years old. I mentioned once to the daycare provider about my son’s reluctance to go to the daycare because he was afraid of this kid’s aggressive behavior. The response I got from the daycare was that this kid had trouble understanding the privacy and the space that sometimes others might need. However, this boy doesn’t seem to have problem around communication as I have seen him having small talks with others. My son, on the other hand, is the one who prefers to keep most of the things inside him and has trouble communicating. So when one wanted to play and the other one expressed no interest and wanted to be left alone, tension arouse between the two.
At school, there is always a one on one para working directly with this kid to give him the full attention he needs and to prevent him from getting into trouble. Yes, the school may be able to afford to do so but will this prepare him to function properly in society? I wonder if the traditional schools like ours have the proper training to deal with kids like him when there is only one special education teacher and one social worker. I read that this syndrome is a very new syndrome and an under-diagnosed condition because of its clinical unfamiliarity; thus not many professionals know how to deal with reactions from the meltdowns and the violent outbursts.
Some may believe that the benefits of an inclusive environment outweigh the possible costs and I can understand some parents wanting their kids to integrate into a mainstream class to increase their kids’ chance of social interaction. However, I also believe that special schools tailoring to the needs of those students are more equipped to handle kids with this type of syndrome when resources, equipment, and expertise are more readily available where traditional schools might lack. Although teachers have an increasing number of students with special learning needs in their classes, traditional schools don’t necessarily have the training which can effectively address the needs of autistic students. In addition, some kids, especially the ones showing violent behaviors do need the intensive intervention available in smaller, segregated classes. I recently read a blog response by a para who indicated her frustration and inability to work with kids with Asperger’s Syndrome. She is not a special education teacher and is not trained on how to deal with autistic students.
It is truly sad that kids have this type of illness and we do need to look at this matter more seriously as it could be a ticking time bomb waiting to explode. This kid will not have the luxury as he has at school having someone constantly watching over him, calming him down, and preventing him from getting into trouble when he enters the society. So what happens then?
Anyway, I might have sidetracked. I am just being mom. It is neither bias nor prejudice that I hold against kids with Asperger’s Disorder but more a concern from a worried mom on the ability of traditional schools to properly handle and control kids with Asperger’s Disorder who couldn’t take no for an answer and turn violent. What would happen when kids like that enter puberty and become attracted to the opposite sex? Maybe, I am just worrying over nothing.