Teacher Professor

August 23, 2010

Keep Your Hands to Yourself

Filed under: Autism,Schools — Teacher Professor @ 4:32 pm

I meant to blog about other things today, but this news drove it all out of my mind…

Kim Stagliano, mother of a child with autism, who is well-known as an activist, an advocate and a blogger, is working with the school district of Bridgeport, CT to investigate the {alleged} abuse of her daughter with autism, all caught on video, of a paraprofessional pinching her and spraining her fingers.  If this could happen to Kim’s child, it could happen to anyone’s child.

There are several things that I find particularly horrifying about this.  The first is that this woman was hired, paid, given money, to take care of this child.  This child was in her care for her to protect and she abused that trust- that trust that is given to all people to whom we hand over our children.  The video captures the child being placed on the bus, kissing her mother, saying (SAYING!) “Bye, Mom”, and then the parapro moving in.  That poor, poor child- feeling abandoned.   If someone chooses to go into education, there is an implicit understanding that that person cares for children.  Is worthy of trust.

Being a paraprofessional is an incredibly tough job.  They are paid less than store clerks, less than secretaries, and often less than maintenance workers.  They have little to no education.  They are given the most fragile and challenging of children to help, to guide and to monitor.  They have no training for this, and certainly no respect.  But… they chose a job in which children depend on them.  My child.  Perhaps your child.  Whether they’re superintendent or a para, children are depending on them.

The second thing that sends shivers down my back is that I wonder if she thinks she was doing the right thing- if she was “teaching” this child.  Reaching and communicating with a child who is non-verbal is hard- very, very hard.  I wonder if she was trying to “send a message” to this child to stop- stop touching, stop poking, stop… Intentional abuse is frightening. Evil lurks in the world.  But ignorant abuse is even more insidious because the perpetrator doesn’t even know that they’re doing wrong.  You turn your child over, not to a liar, but to someone who thinks they’re doing right.

The third thing that gives me the creeps is that the paraprofessional was captured on tape hurting the child when the para’s mother was driving the bus.  That implies, to me, a very, very wrong relationship between the para and her mother.  I tend to behave better when my mother is around, when my friend is around, when anyone I care about is around.  I’m a much calmer, much more focused parent when I have another grownup there to help, to balance, to watch me on my best behavior.  I never shriek at my children- around other people.  It makes me wonder what the parent/child dynamics are with the para and her mother. It also makes me wonder about the bus driver who is not correcting her own child- adult, true, but still a child.

Which leads to my final thought- that as a parents, ALL parents, we HAVE to teach our children to touch only in love- to keep our hands to ourselves if we are angry.  There have been days when Ray has driven me past my last nerve, that I have had to sit on my hands not to lash out at him.  There have been days where I understand child abuse.   There are days where thoughts like “I brought you into this world and I can take you right back out of it” are in my mind.  But that is where they stay- in my head.  I place the child in a room and I walk away.  I sit on my hands.  I teach with words- or hugs.  The idea of a child, any child, having her fingers hurt and her body pinched out of either evil or misguided teaching, by someone in a position of trust is horrifying.  And for child who cannot even tell of her own hurt- well, that is deeper than words.

I ask that you do two things-

1) Go to Huffington Post and make a comment.  Huff Po operates on a “more is better” philosophy and the more comments a story gets, the more publicity it gets.  This form of abuse has to become public and the outrage has to be out there- or it continues.

2) Send this news link to the Transportation Director of your local school district.  Every Director needs to a) educate their parapros about how to properly communicate with their children and b) consider how they will NEVER allow this to happen in their district.

Because this CANNOT happen to ANY child.  EVER.

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