Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Soapbox: Injustice

Two things are on my mind today:

First of all, my 72-year-old mother was denied a drivers’ license last week. She passed all the required exams – but as she was signing her name, the clerk asked, “Oh, do you have trouble with shaking hands?” Yes, my mother does have some trouble – but it’s with fine motor skills, like signing her name, not gross motor skills, like driving a car. The clerk denied her license.

I’d like to see that same clerk when some teenager comes up, signing his application with one hand as he texts a message on his cell phone with another. Bet she wouldn’t even blink.

Last time I checked, it was young males, distracted by whatever including text messaging, who cause the most automobile accidents, not gray-haired grannies with “the shakies,” as our daughter calls it. Her entire driving record: One speeding ticket for going 35 in a 25 mph zone. Tell me she’s a menace on wheels.

Second of all, there’s this story:


In case the link dies, I’ll sum up: A kindergarten teacher allowed her class to “vote out” a classmate because of discipline and social problems brought on by Asperger’s Syndrome. The class voted 14-2 to kick the boy out of their class, as he stood in front of them after returning from the principal’s office. His classmates told him to his face he was disgusting and annoying. And the teacher encouraged this. Encouraged it.

We have a son whom we believe to be borderline Asperger. He has difficulty in social situations, both at home and at school. He’s also a delightful, imaginative child who is very sensitive – as all children are – as to how his peers treat and regard him. We’re careful with the discipline. Oh, we dole it out when it’s necessary. But it’s always in the frame of mind that he’s a good kid, just with occasionally bad behavior. He’s never called disgusting or annoying – even if he is sometimes. That’s just not how you work on behavior. He responds much more favorably – and with better discipline – with positive reinforcement (Here’s what you’re doing right, versus here’s what you’re doing wrong.) I’m grateful he’s had teachers with a better head on their shoulders than this kid’s teacher.

Now, I don’t know the whole story here, obviously. Maybe the precious snowflake’s momma was using the proto-diagnosis (the story says the boy was “in the process of being diagnosed” (which isn’t at all odd, considering the hoop after hoop after hoop you have to go through with this kind of diagnosis; believe me, we’ve been through them all) but to get back to the subject – using the proto-diagnosis as an excuse to excuse his behavior. We certainly don’t – and we don’t even have a proto-diagnosis. But it’s my growing experience that there are some adults out there who look at even mild forms of autism like Asperger’s and then write the kid off as a problem, rather than working with the kid. Like those old t-shirts say, “God don’t make no junk.”

And I’ve been on the other end of this spectrum: When I was a kid, a mentally handicapped kid in the neighborhood tried to choke me when I wouldn’t get out of my brother’s car to let him “drive.” The memories still freak me out, but I don’t brandish pitchforks and torches every time I see a mentally handicapped person walking toward me.

Final note: This teacher has been “reassigned” by the district. Hopefully, to the janitorial staff. Though you’d hate to wish that kind of witless behavior on the other janitors.

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