In case you missed what's going on in the comments on my last post about D. hugging other kids and squeezing their hands, here's a quick recap:
Bob said, "There must be found a way to prevent any child from repeatedly being on the receiving end of unwelcome touches - and in the short term."
I asked him what he'd suggest, and if he felt that my kid shouldn't be around the "normal" kids. And I wasn't trying to be snarky (well, maybe just a little) -- I really wanted to get in the other parents' heads. And Bob said:
I suppose that yes, I think that a child who cannot be prevented from repeatedly subjecting others to unwanted touch should not be in the classroom. But I find it hard to believe that this prevention cannot be accomplished. Couldn't a reasonably energetic para prevent such touches? Isn't that precisely what we would expect if a student was a physical danger to others, or to themselves? Why is this any different?
I'm curious to be in your head, too. If another child were handling your child against her will, repeatedly, and she were upset and bewildered and anxious and not wanting to go to school - would you think that an "ongoing process" was good enough, and, meanwhile, that it wasn't the touching child's parents' problem because those parent "aren't there to do anything about it"?So, here's the thing: the first time I heard about this issue was that first note. I wrote a response. The next day came the second note. Now, it is entirely possible that the hugging/squeezing has been going on since the first day of school and no one bothered to mention it to me until that first note last week. And if that's the case, then it was probably NOT an issue for the child involved. But then a parent saw it and decided that it was Not Okay and complained, and then a note came home. Or, the hugging and squeezing started more recently and again was not enough of a problem to warrant a note home until a parent complained about it.
It's also possible that it started whenever it started and was immediately a real issue for the kids involved, but the teacher thought she could handle it until she thought she couldn't handle it and then she wrote a note home. But I think that Bob's assessment of the issue is wrong. I really have trouble believing that D. was handling another child "against her will, repeatedly, and she [was] upset and bewildered and anxious and not wanting to go to school." If that was truly the case, then it deserves more than a scrawled note on a daily conduct sheet.
There was another incident at school. A parent dropped a child off in the classroom and then went to the assistant principal and told him that D. had shoved her out of the class. The AP came to the teacher to find out what happened. The teacher -- and this is the strict teacher, the one who told D., "You don't say no to me," -- said, "What? No! The parent dropped off the child, and D. said, 'Ok, you go to work now, bye!, and closed the classroom door." Yes, he did put a hand on the parent, but the teacher insists that it was not a shove, and certainly not with violence or malice.
I have frequently seen D. interact with kids. He is often physical, because that's an easier way for him to communicate than verbally. He often hugs kids, he often squeezes their hands, and he sometimes lifts them up. This is generally accompanied by a lot of laughter -- from both children. If the other child seems taken aback, shy, or frightened, I intervene. But if they are having fun, I usually stand to the side, watching closely, but smiling.
I have seen other parents watching, also cautiously, but smiling, unless or until there is a problem. I have seen other parents glance over, assess the situation, and determine quickly that there is nothing to worry about.
And I have seen parents immediately jump in to admonish D. or quickly pull their children away from him as if he is a contagious leper.
It is always interesting to me to note that the leper parents generally have children who think NOTHING of walking up to my kid, shoving him, and walking away laughing. Or telling him, "No, D., you can't sit with us."
Many times, I've thought that if D. has a more distinctive look -- say, the features of Down syndrome, or the tight limbs of cerebral palsy -- people would cut him more slack. They would see, and they would immediately know. But he blends. Unless you know what you're looking for, you might see a typical 12-year-old. (And let's remember that my son is 6.) So no one thinks there's a reason to be kind or understanding.
I guess I don't really have good answers. But I wanted to at least tell you my side.