After waiting for two long years, that dreaded phone call finally came while I was teaching the technical entrepreneurship class. I was summoned by the school to take my ten-year-old son home because he was kicked in the groin and in pain.
I rushed to school to find my Aspergers (a form of autism) and ADHD son in tears and in fear. He refused to reveal who kicked him as he did not want to get his friend into trouble.
After some cajoling, I found out that was with his best friend (and model student) during recess. His best friend was bullying a grade 1 boy, asked my son to do the same, and kicked him when my son refused. As he treasured the friendship, he would have kept the incident a secret had the pain not been so excruciating, and I was called in.
To honor his wishes, I told the school I would not pursue, they need not punish the other boy, and his parents were not informed. The school was happy, but they had to account for the incident, so the educators put on the record that my son was explosive as an ADHD/Asperger child and caused the incident.
I learned quickly that people find it more comfortable to put a blame on a diagnosis than on a person.While it is normal that even good10-year-olds misbehave, it is easier to blame it on the weaknesses of an autistic child. That way, we need not explain why a model and top student can bully a grade one boy or kick his good friend.
When a child gets argumentative or distracted, it is much easier to explain the child is hyperactive or has an attention deficit and easily triggered rather than review to see if the classroom materials or the teaching style is appropriate for today's children.
If there are squabbles between students and involve a special needs child, it is much easier to pin the problem to the diagnosis, not the children, not the parent, not the school, not the educator. But is that fair?
I remember the days my son and I struggled in schools. There was never a case we have ever won, not even when we were right, like in this one. "He was so difficult to get along, people had to kick him." And even when he was minding his own business, there will be strange allegations that we had to deal with.
He was accused of knocking a classmate's head with a recorder and caused a serious bump. Upon examination, there was no bump, nobody saw that incident, no evidence, no doctor's report (even though I offered to pay for one within hours of the 'incident') but it was still my son's fault. I wondered why the other boy was not reprimanded for lying instead. And now I understand. Because he is another "gifted and model student" who won the nation's spelling bee competition and my son is "just" a special needs child.
It felt victimized. Just because SOME special needs children are explosive or can be set off easily does not mean all of them are the same. And even if a child has exploded once, it does not mean he is at fault every time. Every child deserves a chance for every incident, special needs or not.
Unable to cope with the demands of the school as a special needs child's mother, I decided to put him in an easier environment: the university. People are less judgmental, and gave him a chance to learn what he is poor at. I sat in his university classes just to teach him to use a tissue to cover his mouth when he sneezed, to ask questions only when the teacher paused, to look his classmates in his eyes, to bring a box of chocolates when returning a book to a lecturer. In fact, some non-social-butterflies professors and lecturers found themselves in him.
Next year, he will turn 15 and will finish all the courses required to earn a degree. But instead of planning for his PhD, our plan is to return him to his age peers in a high school where he can practise his new social skills.
We look forward to him having more friends his own age, less accusations and a more rewarding journey before his school-going age is over.
We hope to reunite him with his treasured friend in a school environment again. Their friendship was reinforced when my son brought his friend a birthday present just two weeks after that 'kicking' incident. All was forgiven from both sides and the pain forgotten.
Ultimately, it is not about who achieves what grades or even who gets the degree first, all of us are gifted differently. Perhaps a child with special needs take a little longer to get his social skills 'right', but let's not forget he has other gifts, can contribute to the society and can be great, just as long as we stop putting blames, stop picking on him, look for his strengths, and allow him to work on his weaknesses.