When others try to diminish your child’s abilities because of their diagnosis, it’s time to bear the fangs!
Here’s the backstory:
Abby broke her finger. For those of you who are new to Aspie Spot, Abby is my teen daughter, a 7th grader at the moment, who is diagnosed with Asperger’s, or what is now known as High Functioning Autism. As soon as we realized that Abby’s cast would prohibit her from writing OR typing, we called a meeting with the teachers and assistant principal of her school to create a game plan for her schoolwork, tests, etc. The school and teachers were all very supportive and cooperative, and, ultimately, the three weeks she was in a cast were successful. Her grades did not suffer, and she handled the loss of using her right hand, her dominant hand, amazingly well.
Here’s the situation:
Fast forward to a couple weeks after Abby’s cast was removed. Abby had an assignment that spanned 6 weeks, including the three weeks her hand was in a cast. Her teacher is deducting 10 points from Abby’s grade because the assignment was turned in a day late. The reason it was late was because Abby was out of town for a two-day All State Chorus event on the due date, AND was out of school sick (medically excused) a day before she left town for All State. (So, she turned the assignment in on her first day back at school (a Monday) since four days BEFORE the due date – she hadn’t been at school since Tuesday of the previous week and the due date was on Friday.) Additionally, Abby missed three days of school due to illness during the 6-week assignment timeframe (two of which where the before she broke her finger), and the school was closed for 5 days due to inclement weather and school holidays. So, my Aspie kiddo managed to juggle having a cast, illness, school routine changes, AND having 50% LESS time than her classmates to complete an assignment, and still knocked it out with an “A!” She should be given a high five, NOT a 10-point reprimand! What an accomplishment for ANY 7th grader, but particularly one with Asperger’s!
I encouraged Abby to self-advocate and speak to her teacher about the grade. This is hard for her because the teacher is an authority figure, and her Aspie script is that authority figures set the rules, and we follow them. I explained to Abby that she needed to learn this skill of self-advocacy, and used an example of working 40 hours in a job, but only getting paid for 35. I told her she EARNED her “A” on that grade, and that her teacher wasn’t taking into consideration all of the factors. So, Abby did self-advocate and spoke to her teacher, only to be told, “Nope, it was late. You were responsible for turning it on time.” Here’s the thing. I emailed this teacher the week of the due date to request guidance for handling any coursework or missed assignments due to her absences that week for illness and All State Chorus – the teacher replied, but made no mention of this assignment at all.
Here’s why Mama Bear is not happy:
I have corresponded with this teacher via email about this situation, reminding her that Abby was supposed to have extended deadlines, and reminding her of the many extenuating circumstances. Her response: She must be fair to the students who turned it in on time. Eighth grade (next year) is going to be academically rigorous so she must stick to her guns to prove a point and “teach” Abby how difficult 8th and 9th grade is going to be! Interestingly, this whole situation has NOTHING to do with Abby’s academic ability – she’s knocking it out with straight A’s in the highest level courses offered at her school WITHOUT an IEP or 504. She even knocked the socks off of this particular assignment with WAY less time and resources than her classmates.
This teacher ALSO went on to say that she “gets” our concerns because she has a child with special needs, too. HOLD THE PHONE! I never even brought up Abby’s diagnosis in reference to this assignment due date – I stuck strictly to the concrete factors that affected Abby’s time to complete the assignment (which was quite literally 50% less than her peers). The teacher also continued to imply that Abby may not be able to handle the “rigor” of 8th grade honor’s classes, high school, and even college, unless she learns how to deal with pressure and time management such as in this situation. Let me say again, in case you missed it: this is SEVENTH grade!
Additionally, she has said multiple times on this occasion and previously during the school year that Abby should be proud of a “B,” because her work is “amazing,” and that an “A” is very hard to achieve in this class. Well, guess who’s been making “A’s” in her class? Abby even made an “A” in this class for the quarter, despite this point deduction. This teacher’s insistence that Abby may not be capable of handling the “rigor,” of honors classes is astounding.
What I’m doing about it:
I’m NOT going to let this teacher get away with suggesting that Abby’s diagnosis of high functioning autism has anything to do with her academic performance on this assignment – she scored an “A” prior to the 10-point deduction despite having 50% less time to prepare than her classmates!
I’m NOT going to let this teacher hide behind her insistence that “all students should be treated fairly, and deadlines are deadlines,” when THIS student is not being treated fairly as per a written plan from the assistant principal to give her extended deadlines for assignments.
I AM going to speak with the principal about this, and I AM going to have it written in her file that this teacher will never say to my child again that she should be “proud of a B.” She is minimizing Abby’s intelligence and ability to perform by encouraging her to settle for less than what she is capable of achieving. If the principal does not handle this appropriately, I will go to the superintendent. I will not stop until responsibility is placed squarely where it should be.
How this applies to you:
What this teacher is doing is a form of discrimination. She is using Abby’s diagnosis to suggest that Abby cannot handle future coursework based on this example – which had nothing to do with her diagnosis. She is also suggesting that Abby’s diagnosis was the reason that this assignment was turned in late. Neither is true. She is setting Abby up to fail in the future.
If you have a child with ANY kind of special need, whether it be autism, ADD, bipolar disorder, or a physical disability:
- Do NOT ever let a teacher diminish your child’s abilities.
- Do not EVER let a teacher blame your child’s disability for something that is completely unrelated.
As hard as it is to show up and fight, your child needs you to put on the gloves. I don’t look forward to the meeting with principal, but my gloves are on, and my fangs are bared. Don’t mess with this mama bear!
Jodi Carlton, M.Ed.
Jodi is a professional with over 15 years experience in behavioral health, but she is also the mother of a child with autism, and a son with epilepsy. Both of her children have sensory processing disorder, as well. Learn more about Jodi and how her personal experiences combined with her professional training put her in a unique position to help other families dealing with autism spectrum disorders.
Aspie Spot is her blog where she shares, along with her teen daughter who has high functioning autism, with the world about life in a family on the spectrum.
To learn more about her services, please visit: http:autismadvisory.com