This is a piece of writing I have been tossing around in my head for some time but after something I have been made aware of in regards to students with autism in mainstream schools, I felt it necessary to yet again defend our community.
When we choose to enrol our children in mainstream education we are already on the backfoot, not because of the autistic diagnosis but because of the mistreatment and preconcieved ideas that non autistic parents of non autistic children have of us and our kids. We more than likely know that our children will not receive funding for support due to a few numbers on an assessment. Parents of non autistic children do not nor will they ever understand that we have to fight for every single little bit of support our children receive in school. We do it for our children first and foremost, but we also do it for the teacher and our children's peers in the classroom. I have read comments such as "well if they are autistic they should be in a special school" or "why do we have to have THOSE kids in our school as they take up all of the time of the teacher" or "these parents make things so hard for the teachers"
I do not make these things up, I have seen it with my own eyes and heard it with my own ears. When at school, autistic or Non autistic parents of autistic children have been made to feel marginalized, ignored, hated and spoken about as the reason why changes have to occur in schools to better support kids.
Let me ask you this, do you really think we go out of our way to make things hard for the non autistic children? Do you really think we enjoy going to school to drop our children off EVERY GODDAMNED DAY knowing that even though we smile and be polite to these parents we know exactly what is being said about us? Do you really think we enjoy the fact that because of a few numbers on an assessment our children will not get the support to help them in the classroom thus freeing up the time of the teacher so that they can focus on all children in the classroom?
Do you really think we enjoy sitting at school council meetings and hear about all of the ideas being brought forward that are not inclusive of the whole school population thus excluding our children from certain activities? Do you really think we enjoy being blamed for teacher changes due to stress and teacher burnout? ( I will elaborate on this one) and do you really think that we enjoy our children coming home and being told that they are not allowed to play with this child or this child because their peers parents have stated that they don't want them to mix?
This may sound preposterous but if parents of autistic children in mainstream education got together to discuss this my money is on nearly 3/4 of us have experienced some form of discrimination at any one time during our child's schooling life. Yes discrimination. I am calling a spade a spade. My children's school has been through a lot of changes over the past couple of weeks. I will not elaborate but I will say I told the Principal last year that if he did not demand more support from the DET that shit would hit the fan. I told him that I was more than happy to be the bad guy in the situation and advocate hard for more funding for our school. But I was shut down. I funded two of the staff to go to the ASPECT Autism and Education conference for two days to upskill and then pass that information on, I have had personal meetings with senior members of the DET demanding they provide more resources to teachers and schools with high enrollment rates of students with a disability. I and others have lobbied for change to the PSD guidelines so those few little numbers on a sheet are irrelevant and that all children with a disability enrolled in mainstream education receive funding but our state government have decided to wait it out in regards to the 4 recommendations handed down in the inquiry that would see this happening. I spoke at length to principals and meet with our acting principal last week and discussed teacher burnout and inadequate funding for students at our school after him informing me that our schools autistic enrollment rate is 27% higher than any other school in the state. A result in not enough funding and support in the classroom has led to teacher burnout and stress leave but I ask would this have happened if the DET had of listened when autistic advocates demanded more training, more support, more funding and autistic mentors for the students? It makes you wonder. But of course the parents in the school who do not live in our world or are a part of our community don't see that, they have no idea what we as parents are doing behind the scenes to try to make things better for ALL people in the school, teachers and aides included. All they see are whinging whining parents who cause trouble, make teachers go on stress leave, whose kids take up all of the teachers time or are constantly complaining about this that or the other. Do they no realize that by fighting us or blaming us for everything they are part of the problem? Power is in the support we get. If these parents stood side by side us and said enough is enough our school deserves more funding for autistic and disabled students so that ALL children get the education afforded to them, so that teachers get the support that is required, so that inclusive programs for all students occur in the school and that regular educational frameworks are devised to assist all staff and parents if they wish, to better understand how a neurodiverse approach to education would benefit everyone. So who is the bad guy in all of this? Us, Them, Teachers, DET? I guess that's up to individual choice. As for me I will continue to drop my children at school, smile and be nice but I will be damned if I will ever stop fighting for more supports from the DET for schools. I couldn't care less if I'm loved or hated by parents at schools. My children are there to be educated as it is a human right so feelings about me are irrelevant but there are some parents that this really effects and for that I wish things were different. Because the shoe could have very easily been on the other foot and these parents who are so quick to judge should realize that.