I can’t really think of any vaguely amusing spin on this blog today. I try to add some humour in my blogs as a self preservation thing; “if you don’t laugh you’ll cry” etc, etc, but this one is different. It’s about demonising disabled children, and I just can’t think of anything funny which would decrease the pain I feel when I experience first hand, or when I read about this practice which is often being disguised as ‘Inclusion’.
These monsters, who are being created mostly, in my opinion, to relieve people of their duty to do their jobs, include:
1. My son
2. Chris, a young man with autism from Wigan, who is still being abused in an institution that can’t meet his needs, and denying his family access to visit.
Bring Chris Home Petition
3. The child with Down Syndrome, featured in the ‘Secret Teacher’ article in the Guardian yesterday Inclusion but not at any cost
I had my son’s SEN tribunal hearing on Monday, and I’m not sure how it went really. The sad thing is that what I am asking for mostly cost nothing, and if it does, could have been provided to at least a hundred kids by now, and counting, with the money being wasted on a barrister to represent the LA. (But that’s another story).
When I reflected on the hearing on the train going home, what struck me was that no-one in the room had anything good to say about my son. Seriously, not one person needed, or wanted to know what my son was really like: how decisive he is, how strong willed and funny he is, how gentle and immature he is, what his goals are, how high his expectations are, what his likes and dislikes are, what kind of people he responds well to, and more.
The focus of the LA was to describe a 10 year old boy, who has been out of school for over a year because of the way he was treated in his former school, in such a way that makes him not human. He was the ‘problem’ that needed to be resolved, and the LA, including witnesses from the NHS physiotherapy service did nothing to highlight the failings of the provision which causes my son’s ‘behaviour’. No, the Educational Psychologist, who recommended ‘Co-Operative Learning’ to the former school, which keenly sent all staff on training in its use, hasn’t challenged why it was never used to help all children’s participation in class. No, the Physiotherapist or OT have never challenged the school on why my son was left in his wheelchair all day with no opportunities for a change of position, as per their own recommendations. Yet the Ed Psych, out of the blue, provides a report which suggests other options might include various special needs schools. And the Physiotherapist and OT remain silent on the non-use of equipment they provided, and the lack of any opportunities for my son to have a change of position. So by these people keeping schtum, my son is allowed to be demonised. His behaviour is just ‘how he is’. WRONG – my son’s ‘behaviour’ reflects other people’s skill, knowledge and in every case, their compassion, and if these are missing, what hope does he have now, or in the future of being seen as just another person, in society, in his community, who is worth just the same as everyone else?
Chris, the young man from Wigan who is currently in an ATU that has been found to have abused him, has autism. His needs are not being met, but instead of allowing his family to take him home, where, with professional help, they can support him to live a good life, they are all being subjected to an horrific nightmare. No, Chris is dangerous. He’s violent. No bloody wonder!! Chris is in hell.
I was saying to someone the other day that what has happened to Chris, could so easily happen to my son, and thousands more, because our kids are not in control of their behaviour. Their behaviour is caused by a lack of skill and understanding of how to meet a child’s needs. Not deliberate, but as a child develops and learns more, his responses change and his needs are constantly changing. It’s also caused by a lack of wanting to meet those needs too. If someone believes a child should be in a special school and not in a mainstream school, the needs which are somehow (and inappropriately) being seen to support this child going to a special school, could easily escalate if the people responsible for meeting these needs don’t believe it is their job to meet them. When this happens, there is a fine line which can become impossible to reverse back over, once a child is not being listened to. Decisions are being made based on behaviour due to unmet needs, the action plan makes the behaviour worse, and so on.
The ‘Secret Teacher’ blog in the Guardian yesterday made my stomach sink. Worryingly, with a whistleblowing system that is not fit for purpose, and a funding system that doesn’t fund, I suspect that this is the view of many teachers out there.
I have to say, whenever I read the word ‘integration’ in anything related to disabled (children or adults), I cannot agree with anything the writer says, because I’ve made my mind up that this person is someone who sees disabled people as add-ons who don’t really belong, and who are perhaps being over ambitious expecting to participate in life. Integration was a word just fizzling out of use when I began having to fight for my son’s ‘inclusion’ and I thought that was a good thing, but clearly people still use it, as does the Secret Teacher.
I now hate the word ‘inclusion’ too. Why are we giving society permission to include a person in life or not? Who the hell are we to say who can and can’t be included?
The secret teacher seemed to blame the child for his behaviour, and not the staff who obviously couldn’t deal with his needs, and this is the bit I can’t get over. The teacher also criticised the parent too, which doesn’t surprise me because we know nothing about our kids do we?? *sarcasm* and in this blog, the child is demonised. Again.
How are we meant to educate people that disabled kids are here to stay and they have as much right to be here when the grown up refuses to take responsibility for the child? Disabled kids need support, and whatever that level of support is, it doesn’t matter if the bricks stopping the rain coming in are mainstream or special needs, because the person providing that support is the one who will prevent that child from drowning.
At the end of the day, if an adult is allowed to blame a child, and consequently create a monster, no amount of funding or training or resources in the world can support that child to succeed. Isn’t it about time we start to look at the attitudes and views of adults choosing to work with children like my son, like Chris, and like the child in the Secret Teacher piece? When recruiting staff, are we asking the right questions? Do potential candidates see disabled children as equal in worth? Do they believe in ‘integration’? Do they think disabled children should all go to special needs schools? These are the unasked questions that many working in schools would answer differently to, and for different reasons, and it’s a subject we are still allowed to discuss openly. What if we discussed whether or not children from different cultural backgrounds should be allowed to attend a mainstream school? We’d be done for racism, so why are we still having the debate about where children should go to school? The options of mainstream or special needs are only there because we allow them to be, and if there isn’t a fair and humane way of deciding if one is more appropriate than the other, then there should be just one school which must meet the needs of all our children, and if it doesn’t it’s the school’s fault, not the child’s. By categorising the school, we are categorising the child and when you do that the child ceases to be a person, and could quite quickly become a monster.