Thursday, July 31, 2008

Special education struggles in school

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - - Young people dealing with Autism or Asperger Syndrome often face an uphill battle in the classroom. One family's struggle with schooling and takes a look at how schools handle the challenge of teaching these special students.

When Tim Miller started coming home from school in sixth grade telling his parents horror stories, they didn't know what to think.

John Miller, Tim's Father, said, "Our son was coming home and telling us the school was trying to kill him - with his communication deficits at the time he didn't know how to say he was being restrained."

John Miller says his son, who has Asperger Syndrome or a higher functioning form of autism, was being put in prone restraints when he acted out in class. Although he admits Tim, then 12, had behavioral issues, he believes the school went too far.

Tim Miller, teen with Asperger Syndrome, said, "I remember they just grabbed me and put me into the room or whatever and I remember they had the mat and just threw me to the ground."

John Miller, Tim's Father, said, "Every time they restrained my son, they were stepping outside of their training."

Summit Educational Resources CEO Dr. Stephen Anderson says in general restraints are a last resort.

Dr. Stephen Anderson, Summit Educational Resources CEO, said, "Restraint is the emergency procedure, it's the back up, it's the thing you may have to do if all else fails and there's a risk to the individual or others."

But the Millers say the restraints were just part of their problem with the Allegany-Limestone Central School District.

John Miller, Tim's Father, said, "Crucial in this whole thing are the denied services. Allegany-Limestone Central Schools I believe intentionally mis-classified my son for six years."

Miller says if Tim had been classified as autistic when he was diagnosed, he would have received the social, behavioral, and educational services he needs.

But Dr. Anderson says that may not be the case in public schools.

Dr. Stephen Anderson, Summit Educational Resources CEO, said, "If a kid is achieving academically, I'm not sure what their responsibility is after that, we'd all like them to embrace and do more, but their resources are limited as well."

He says it's a difficult balance for schools to meet the needs of children with autism or Asperger Syndrome while not disrupting the education of other children.

Dr. Stephen Anderson, Summit Educational Resources CEO, said, "I don't think school districts have ever seen this with the frequency that they're starting to see it now because they're keeping kids with more challenging behaviors within the context."

Both the Allegany-Limestone Superintendent and the school's attorney would not comment because of privacy issues and because Tim Miller's case is currently in litigation.

An impartial hearing on the matter was overturned, and it is now headed to federal court.


Barbara said...

This is a very good article ..and oh so true off what happens in the schools. In my last years at a local high school,we went from one lock down room, to four. The program changed dramatically. I don't agree with the restraint approach because it escalates the agitation. Those of us that deal with autism know that it can be very exhausting!

KentuckyGal said...

OMG, that is SO WRONG! I work with MR/DD adults (mentally retarded & developmentally disabled) and we would SO get arrested for any kind of physical assault of the kind described in your post!

Speaking as the mother of a child whose 2nd grade teacher "wrote him off" when she found out that he has ADD, I hope Tim Miller's mistreatment, and the perpetrator's thereof, is/are brought to justice!

Two weeks before the end of his 2nd grade year, our 8 year old was surrounded by 4 classmates on the playground, had his pants pulled down 3 times in front of 3 classes of boys and girls and the 3 teacher/observers "didn't see anything". The 4 classmates admitted their actions. The school did not call us until the end of the day, and the classmates remained in school due to mandated state testing ... so they received NO punishment. We complained to the district. The principal threatened us for "going over her head" and then called CPS on us in retaliation, saying that our son had "exposed himself" on the playground!

We homeschool now. (Sorry for the long comment, but once I get started on this topic, it is hard for me to stop!)