When a mother is pregnant, her priority is baby’s health. After birth, it doesn’t change much. Parents are always worried about their children’s health.
When children get older and go to school, parents are worried about how their children spend time at school because they cannot see them. The parents of children with special needs are more worried about their kids when they go to school because they need more attention.
Emily Dive, a 28-year-old mother of an 8-year-old boy, never thought that giving her son the education would be so hard for her. She has been fighting against schools for the past 3 years to make the Department of Education bring Lachlan (Locky) into a classroom.
Australian law says every child of his age is required to attend school but the Victorian Education Department didn’t allow him to attend school because of his autism.
Since 2014, for the past few years, Lachlan has been forced to move schools four times and he never had chances to spend time with his classmates. He was not allowed to even participate in PE Class and has only been allowed to go to school under his mother’s supervision.
In one of the schools he attended, he was forced to stand in a plywood box that was built in the school’s resources room. The room was only 6 feet x 6 feet and had no windows and only a peephole through the door.
“The room was pitched to me as a ‘calm down’ room. If Locky began to show high signs of anxiety – which to people looks like defiant, disruptive behavior, then he would be ‘encouraged’ to use the room,” she said.
She also mentioned, “a condition on his behavior contract – which was the school’s approach to assisting my son with his disability – was that if he couldn’t re-regulate in that room, I was called to pick him up.”
Locky’s mother claims the principal of the school said all students would be encouraged to use the room in times of heightened emotion, but she was unable to verify if it ever happened except to Locky.
“After a daily battle of dealing with the school in the context we have, you’re broken, you’re defeated and it takes a toll,” she said.
“You’re fed the information like it’s a privilege, that the school is doing you a favor by providing an additional space to have your child re-regulate, that it doesn’t infringe on their human rights.”
Lachlan was not allowed to attend a school for children with special needs because his IQ was too high. His mother has been teaching Locky to the best of her ability from home, but she wanted to see him succeed in a school community that is able to support him.
“I relied on things like learning apps on the iPad and taught him to read myself. Locky had no idea what a school routine entailed because he had such limited exposure to one,” she said.
Lachlan’s symptoms got worse as he had been locked in the plywood box. His experience in that classroom resulted in him becoming frustrated and physically aggressive. At one point, his condition was so severe that he was suspended from school and was eventually expelled from his primary school.
His mother said, “[Lachlan’s] anxiety was evident even before we got to the school gate. There were inconsistencies as to who he would have assisting him in the classroom. His days were unpredictable, staff forever changing their approach and strategies because they just had no idea what to do.”
His mother also had to face the problem before; she was asked to keep her son at home for months because the school could not cope with him.
The mother’s complaints have been filed by special education advocate, Julie Phillips. She said, “This is a systemic problem that has been highlighted by a number of statutory authorities and Senate committees and unfortunately the DET has been doing very little to address it.
Cases like Lachlan’s are cases where they have occurred over a number of years and they have been in a position, and this is the schools, where they have just had no idea about what to do and have been unsupported by the department.”
Every child should have the same opportunity for education. It is our job to teach kids. Whether the kids have autism or not should not affect kids’ opportunities to learn.
All students should be respected as a human. They should not be treated like that.