I Worry About Autistic Children – Trouble in the School System

I was extremely fortunate in life, born into a large family who loved me greatly. Every one of them wanted to see me succeed. They pushed me and taught me things. My grandparents made sure I had good manners and my aunts and uncles taught me art and music. Cousins and family was fun but teachers and school was very difficult.

At home I felt confident and competent, this was always crushed when I went to school. My individuality was not cherished and teachers said I was too much of a distraction to stay in class. Eventually when I learned to sit still (which even now is hard on me) I was allowed to return to class with my peers.

They were strict and it was hard but in the end I had to want to go back to the regular class room so I would be motivated to sit still. Autistic people can do very well if they are motivated but our motivations my not make sense to others.

I’ve learned to use my own motivations as rewards for good work. I tell myself “if you do this now you can have a reward at the end”. Sometimes the reward may be a stretch or stim break, it could be a cup of coffee, or a snack. I need to be motivated and as an adult I have to motivate myself to create good habits.

It’s not much different than what I would do for my dog when helping him learn new habits. All creatures love rewards and I love my dog. I want to help grow good habits so my dog can have a happy life – we just both happen to love treats.

Teachers who punish, call out flaws, and ostracize children who are different were some of my biggest adversaries in school growing up. They didn’t know what to do with me back then. I was “smart and dumb at the same time”. Teachers also called me lazy. There were no accommodations for me growing up, I had to learn to blend in or get kicked out of school.

Fast forward thirty years and parents advocating for their own children often struggle to get reasonable accommodations for their children in the public school system. Schools want to offer many Autistic kids a minimal education and with our current political situation I worry things may get much worse.

Many great historical thinkers had trouble in school growing up. Imagine if they encountered a system that told them they were not worth teaching. What if nobody had taken the time to help them learn and grow?

Everybody deserves the chance to learn and grow. We need to make sure Autistic children do not get shut out of an education just because they have a different way of experiencing the world.


24 thoughts on “I Worry About Autistic Children – Trouble in the School System”

  1. It is important that you are highlighting problems in the educational system. Education is supposed to help us grow not drive us down because we don’t conform. You made wise choices in taking on self management rather than rebellion in response.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. As one who was a intervention specialist I must say that I tried to help the kids. There were those in the inclusionary setting who would modify but most did not want to. I understand what you are saying. I, for one, was frustrated with the system as well. I hate to admit it but in some ways I liked having my pull out time/ room when I could focus on my student’s individual needs. For many of the teachers here in Ohio the testing schedule has a lot to do with it. They are held accountable for their results and don’t want to lose their jobs. But, that is not an excuse for how some of them act. I want you and all to know that there are those teachers who are trying to help. You may not even know that they are behind the scenes fighting for you. I was one of them. I can no longer teach due to a TBI but I understand. My last day at work I was fighting with my team trying to help a girl with a concussion. I don’t know what ever happened with her. I am betting she was not given modifications either. I am just hoping it did not result in issues for her. Parents need to stand up and know that an IEP is a legal document to which the school system needs to be held accountable for. All with an IEP have rights. Parents, find someone to help you – you can take it as far as a lawsuit, We in house can only do so much. I had very few parents rise up or question anything. I know. They don’t want repercussions on their child. But, they do need to fight for their child. I could not do it alone.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. This is an excellent article. As a student I failed miserably failing just about every level. Forced to exit high school after 21 to fend for myself and found my brain in the military. The education system is defiantly not geared to teaching different learners and I’m not certain if it’s set up to teach anyone. I talk from experience as a student and as a teacher.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. We are incredibly lucky where we live that the town school is so accepting of individualism. They have their hand’s full with our Buddy saying that he’s incredibly intelligent but can seem dumb is really the best way to put it but instead of offering him less they’ve introduced him to extra work through different style of teaching (one on one, novels, research, bring home work… he does much better when he can think on things himself first for a while and then participate or do the work calmly) and he’s really benefited. The only time he’s ever ‘punished’ is when his behavior is directly disruptive or disrespectful to the other students. I do believe though if I were to home school him, he wouldn’t have the opportunity to learn the social skills needed and would be much further behind than he is now. I find many people we reach out to are having more problems in larger classrooms (or just larger schools in general) where unique kids end up getting lost or not tolerated. I just wanted to say there still are schools out there that do seem to be getting it right and I hope more school can take note of what works for eveyone.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. We have fought the school system, sued the school system, and spent tons of money trying to get our two boys what they are due by law. It is a constant struggle and it breaks my heart that so many kids do not have people advocating for them. I suspect with DeVos in charge things will get worse for children with disabilities in the public school system. All this promise will stagnate instead of reach their full potential. We should be ashamed.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. I also worry. A common approach in school districts in my area is to mainline the students, and they offer only minimal support. Instead, they pad the grades by offering simple extra credit assignments. The children are not learning or growing to their full potential, which handicaps them as adults.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I had a normal schooling and wanted to do well, but the main problem for me was attending Catholic Schools in one of the most decadent towns in Northern Ireland. There was a parallel universe I was existing in, holy on the outside but corrupt inside. Listening to the ‘Bar Talk’ in our local area has been a real wake-up call about the reality of our society.

    I believe that our scoiety rewards self-loathing and punishes self-respect. We’re expected to be followers rather than leaders. (Socialism in the Classroom)

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Wonderful article! I work in the schools and unfortunately still see what you said you experienced. It varies from teacher to teacher and school to school, so it isn’t everywhere, but it’s definitely there. Something that makes me especially nuts is seeing kids who are having behavioral issues (off task, aggression, avoidance) get punished, when they are frequently doing this because of anxiety or ADHD. Yes, we need to address behavior and have expectations but would a little empathy be unreasonable to ask as well? It also really ticks me off when teachers will say, “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” to justify discounting what a parent says. Seriously, if the parent has autistic traits then you as an educator in special education should understand how to communicate with them. This phrase gets thrown around most when parents are advocating for their kids. They SHOULD be and NEED to be!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Schools, teachers, aides are what make the difference. King Ben is at his fourth school & fifth teacher. We moved him mid term this year and the change is day&night. He went from eloping, hitting, biting to everyone’s​ favorite student & dropping the behavior plan from his IEP. What was needed was the right environment with the correct supports. All deserve this! But as previous comment, I’m terrified at what DeVos is going to do. I’ll keep fighting to make sure King Ben gets the support he deserves.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. “At home I felt confident and competent, this was always crushed when I went to school.”
    This was me and what happened to me at school caused irreparable damage. However, it also means that I am strong for my son- not that it’s been required yet as the school is fantastic. This isn’t the case for so many other children and I worry so much for them, knowing how school scarred me. I hold so much resentment to teachers who’ve probably been dead a long time and having been treated so badly by those who’s job it was to care for me, I can make sure that it never happens to my son. We’ve come a long way since my 1970s schooling but we’re still a long way off where we need to be so EVERY child thrives.
    Great post Anna.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. Agree with you so much on the worrying about children in the schools. My daughter was not autistic but she did have ADHD. They took away her recess to punish her for not sitting still which always compounded the problem. I ended up home-schooling her and her brother. I enjoyed it but home schooling had it’s disadvantages as well and I felt frustrated that I had to resort to that.
    Love your posts btw.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. My son will start high school next year and problems have already begun. The high school does not provide one to one E.A. for their students. Each class has an E.A. and thoes students who need more help can choose to go out into hallway with the E.A. and other students who need help.My child doesnt need extra help he needs assistance processing the information. He doesnt have a learning disability he has autism. The school recomends the alternative school if my child falls too far behind in his classes. He doesnt belong at the other school.He wants to be learning he wants to be with his friends. I can already see next year will be a battle. I dont know why my son cant just keep what works and I am so sick of hearing the word independence Yes I know high school is a place where students take on more resposibilities and can not rely on teachers to remind them of homework or whatever,but my chid isnt being lazy or carring an attitude of indifference;he hates having autism I mean he really hates it;he tries so hard to not let it show and he doesnt want to be treated differently or use his autism as an excuse for anything. I have explained excuses and explanations are two different things. School staff seem to get the two mixed up alot too.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Organization is difficult for my son but he being able to remember and process the lesson is very difficult for him.Too many directions or three part questions confuse him.He knows the material but getting that knowledge out is hard. He needs a quiet room.The school offers an area,like the hallway or cafeteria. My child absorbs everything around him and can not filter out sounds and movements. He isnt able to focus on his assignment. He is not delayed and yet that is where the school will place him.Last year was a nightmare because he was grouped with the EBD students even though he has never had any issues with behavior. The school does not want to accept his need for one to one E.A. because it is easier and more cost effective to stick him with students with disabilities and emotional problems,or send him to the alternative school

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Tell him to cross ANY extra information out in pencil on those questions! I had the SAME problem. Too much information. Teachers helped me git rid of extras so I only had what I needed left. NT’s always have extra words where not needed – Aspies don’t understand this. Even as adult this causes me problems in communication. Also – I STRONGLY suggest getting him some discrete ear plugs. They help me a LOT because I work in an open office.


  13. Back in the 1960s, when I was growing up, people like me were labeled pretty quickly as “disruptive”, “evil” (that one from a Catholic school), “a bad influence” – and it was all because my parents didn’t beat me enough. Ah, the good old days… 😦 My father had an undiagnosed mental condition (he turned out to be bipolar) and bizarre treatments (the old-fashioned electroshock therapy) that left him with unpredictable mood swings. My mother had mental issues of her own and was unable to help me much – but I respect the fact she tried as best she could.

    My own children were lucky enough to have a father who understood their condition first-hand, and a mother who loved them enough to cover for me when my own condition (and the coping mechanisms I learned in my own childhood) failed them. Also, the modern school system has section 504 and IEPs to help people with conditions like ours.

    I hope we (my wife and I) have instilled in our children the same caring and attentiveness to children’s needs as we had – or better. And apparently, HB610 (sponsored by three Tea Party Republicans) threatens to repeal all of that, so it’ll be even more up to parents to fight for their children’s right to a free, appropriate public education.

    Why can’t our own government recognize not everything is “our fault”?


    1. ““disruptive”, “evil” (that one from a Catholic school), “a bad influence” – and it was all because my parents didn’t beat me enough. Ah, the good old days…” – YES! I got this too. Sigh. This is why we need awareness & acceptance.

      Liked by 1 person

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