I have Google Alerts set for lots of things, one is “autism.” It ends up being too wide a topic; the stories too numerous. One caught my eye, not in a good way, and dovetails into a recent post on Nate’s High School Journal entries.
In Talk About Patience!, I quoted Nate as he wrote about hitting his gym teachers with a dodge ball, and telling another teacher “I’m going to kill you.” There’s another Nate story, one he didn’t write about, when he locked the bio teacher out of the lab room because that teacher didn’t like Nate using the computer. Nate logically concluded that the problem was not his conduct, but the incessant negativity of his teacher. So he locked the classroom door. His teacher was upset, very, because in the lab were chemicals, burners and various other dangerous items that Nate had absolutely no interest in.
For all Nate’s peccadilloes, he never suffered more than being sent to the Principal’s office. Everyone at school knew Nate, knew what he could control and what he couldn’t, knew, too, that bad behavior was to be dealt with in an appropriate way.
So I was shocked to read a story brough to me via Google Alerts, called “Autistic teen charged in alleged teacher attack.” (I’ll put a link at the end).
A 13-year old autistic boy’s speech therapist of two years filed felony charges against him for hitting her with headphones, so hard, she said, that “it felt that my skull cracked.” Understood. I have been on the receiving end of Nate attacks that were pretty painful. And I empathize with her situation and the shock of having someone you’ve devoted yourself to turn on you so violently. Again, been there.
But pressing charges, third degree felony charges for assaulting a public (or private) education employee? After years devoid of a single incident?
I couldn’t quite believe it. I know what Nate’s support people put up with over time and what they shrugged off. Even now, with Elise, there are times when Nate lashes out and she, though hurt emotionally and physically, sucks it up and ends up feeling apologetic for him.
What shook me up is, from a parenting standpoint, the idea that someone counted on to know the child, maybe your child, could turn on him in such a grievous way. That’s not to excuse the boy’s tantrum. We’ve never let Nate slide on any bit of bad behavior. He is told what is right and expected, sometimes punished, and always made to apologize to the wounded person. He doesn’t need prompting any more; he knows now when he crosses the line and his quick turn from pitching a fit to asking for forgiveness is wonderful and shows how, even when he acts out beyond his control, he immediately grasps the error and seeks to make it better. That’s maturity.
I’m thankful, after reading this woeful bit of news, for all the people who have struggled along with Nate. You all know who you are. Thanks for not sending him to jail, even when, by law, he may have deserved it.