Saturday, 14 June 2008

Alex Barton, Asperger's and the MisEducation of the Public

The family of Alex Barton, the little Aspergian misbehaving five year old kindergardener, has decided to sue the school district for his treatment by teacher Wendy Portillo. It is reported that although he enjoyed talking on television, Alex is still evidencing signs of trauma. An attorney from the Liberty Legal Institute's Dallas branch office states that the suit is not without merit. Public opinion as expressed at the end of another article-- published by the T.C. Palm on June 7, 2008 range from "Oh noes Alex will have to goto court and that sucks," to "Give 'em a buck and be done with it," to "Yup, there is a case there." The blog Thinking in Metaphors over at
is the place to go for a better understanding of the legal issues involved.

Autism, along with many other disabilities, continue to be misunderstood by the general public. Now I know that the general public does not have to understand every disability. But kids in a regular classroom should have the benefit of some accurate information. The real bother of the whole thing is that while "inclusive education" is the current buzzword, kids in general are not given any explanations about the conditions and disorders that may be effecting a few of their classmates. Thus a good friend of mine was left recently to explain Tourette's to his nine year old son. Nine year old was accused of not demonstrating an, uh, inclusive attitude because he had yelled "shut up" when a classmate kept cursing in the classroom one day. Apparently some regulation or concern about private medical information prevented the teacher from offering any useful information. The same reg or concern prompted the teacher to claim (erroneously in my estimation) that my friend did not have a right to explain Tourette's to his son either. Talk about insanity. If kids cannot talk about their differences, how are they ever going to come to an understanding of those differences? In my estimation, "Don't ask, don't tell" does not work when it comes to building community.

Now we have a teacher who decided to have a bunch of five year olds tell another five year old what they don't like about him or his behavior. Uncool for any child to have to go through. That teacher needs to find a different line of work. And in light of the lawsuit, the Florida school system would do well to inservice all of its' teachers on autistic spectrum disorder. Autism is indeed a broad spectrum of disorders. The three that illustrate a wide range of intellectual prowess and behavioral manifestations are classic (Kanner's) autism, Asperger's, and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (P.D.D.-nos). [There are two other disorders included in the spectrum which probably should be moved to a different category.] Having been forced to sit through a few "sensitivity training sessions" myself, my own prejudice is that they don't do much. I still hold that the information should be offered to teachers as well as to the students and their parents. It is at least a beginning. Furthermore, any teacher who works in an inclusive classroom ought to be dually certified-- in special education as well as in elementary or secondary education (or whatever their primary field is).

The general assumption that "all people with autism" are screaming self-stimming innocents and perpetual children is one that I personally am a bit tired of dealing with. Just last night on secondlife dot com, my avatar tried to explain to someone who was annoyed with my adopted cousin's verbal behavior that yes indeed Aspergians can be verbally obnoxious just like anybody else. The avatar to whom this short explanation was directed had protested, "He doesn't have autism! Autistics don't provoke people." Interesting how any of us can suddenly know more than the neuropsych people who have spent years in testing and observation and diagnosing of a variety of disorders and conditions.

Autism in all of its' manifestations is not something that needs curing as the Autism Squeaks parents would have us believe. Nor is it something that should be celebrated in all of its' aspects. If the Aspergian bank teller wishes to keep his job, he needs to attend to matters of personal hygiene just like the rest of us. An autistic adult who is not able to communicate her basic needs or desires certainly has a tough life journey that not many of us would envy or want to emulate. Similar things could be said of any disabling condition or disorder. There was a time when I thought that traumatic brain injury was the worst thing that could happen to me. Then it did happen through the actions of a driver who really should not have gotten stoned before getting behind the wheel of his automobile. Traumatic brain injury is not the worst thing. And autism is not truly the thing that needs curing. The worst thing is ignorance and it is ignorance that needs healing.

radical sapphoq


Posted By sapphoq to * radical sapphoq at 6/13/2008 07:41:00 PM

No comments: