Who are the REAL specialists?
Learning from those who are in the trenches...
One of the most comical phrases I have heard over the past ten years of raising a son with Aspergers is that teaching staff has been "trained" in how to handle him. Really? "Trained"? So each and every student with Aspergers is exactly the same? There is one set of rules for every diagnosed person in the world? Oh goody, now I can rest! I should be dancing in the streets and rejoicing that the glorious New York City Department of Education has found all of the answers and has seen fit to pay for ONE staff member in my son's very large and overcrowded public school to be "trained" in how to handle Asperger students. She in turn paid, on her own for two more staffers to be trained. Mind you, my son is NOT the only student in this school who has this diagnosis, but I am assuming that the Department of Education believes that three staffers are more than enough to handle what ever comes their way.
This being said, just who are these SPECIALISTS who are training the staff members? Are they truly people who know Aspergers? Or did they simply read a few books and take some graduate level college classes? Here's the real deal. You have no idea what Aspergers is until it is staring you right in the face, on the rare occassion that it finally makes eye contact. The truth of the matter is that once again, our tax dollars are being thrown in the garbage with this training. You know who should be training the staff? Parents of the actual Asperger children, students with Aspergers AND adults with Aspergers who have suffered through years of mismanaged education and humilation as a result. They are the ones who should be getting paid by DOE for the many, many years of grief and suffering at their hands. I am not saying in the form of a class action lawsuit because we are already doing that. I am suggesting this because it is a way that Asperger families get back some of the money that is lost to them because of all the therapies, medications, herbs, special diets, tutors, lost hours at work when the teachers had to call parents from work due to meltdowns, lost hours in class when students had meltdowns due to teacher mismanagement, sadness, isolation that all families feel, not by a lawsuit, but by helping for the greater good. A lesson for the future. A plan for our future.
I have written a professional development plan and have put a professional binder on my thoughts, plans and ideas. I am so hoping to be able to bring many parents and Aspergers persons into this plan. I am hopeful that educators will embrace the fact that we are truly the people who KNOW how to teach them. We can show a teacher what is important and what is something they need to let slip by for their own sanity. We need to show them that there are so many wonderful sides to Aspergers that consistently focusing on those negative traits that show from time to time is not helpful to anyone. Students with Aspergers are NOT brats who have parents that bought them a label that give them the right to be rude. So many adults are under the impression that this is the case. In my own family, we have been accused of "making our son this way" by pushing him to read early and become an expert on certain subjects. So much heartache could have been avoided if those people simply understood that reading at 13 months is very common with a child who has Aspergers, we never taught him, or pushed him, he taught himself. Being an expert at a particular subject is a major Asperger trait. Anyone who reads a tiny bit of information will see that.
The final, most important factor here is the Asperger person. If educators truly want to be trained, they need to spend time with the actual person who has this diagnosis. Get to know them. Each person, like "regular" people (are there really any?) has his or her own quirks and habits. Some Asperger people do not like the sound of crumpling paper, some do not like bright lights, some are comforted by music, others prefer reading in a quiet room. They are alike in many ways, but they are also their own person. Every personality is different. This is why I say that being "trained" by some stuffy Department of Education person who is passing out materials from a textbook or the internet is not the way to go. Educators must spend time in the "trenches" with the parents, the siblings, other family members, and of course people with Aspergers, to truly be TRAINED. Educators and for that matter, potential employers, since Asperger persons can and should be out in the workforce, and I mean corporate world with the brains they possess, also need to understand their differences. Tolerance is not just to sexual preferences. People with Aspergers or Autism did not ask to be born this way. However, they are here, the count rises daily. They are not a burden on society if do not let them be, they can enrich our world greatly. But we must learn, and allow ourselves to be educated by those who know.