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Friday, November 2, 2012

Mommy, I Wish I Could Tell You What They Did To Me In School Today. - Book Review









When the author, Richard S. Stripp Sr., asked me to help raise awareness for his cause on Facebook I was more than happy to do so at every given opportunity.  His book, "Mommy, I Wish I Could Tell You What They Did To Me In School Today.", focuses much needed attention upon the "Everyday Atrocities Faced by Special Needs Children" in the one place they should be the safest, at school.  Raising awareness of this issue is something that is extremely important to me personally and anything I can do to help, I will do.  But when he asked me to read the book and write this review, I have to admit, I was hesitant to agree to do it. 

I didn't want to read the book.  I was scared.  I knew it would make me cry.  I knew it would affect me deeply on a very personal level and bring up memories and emotions I really did not want to be made to deal with, ones I have been actively trying to avoid for years. And then I thought about all the children who are out there, still being mistreated, still being hurt mentally, physically, and emotionally by the very people their parents entrusted with their safety.  My pain became irrelevant, stopping theirs is what really matters.

 So I spent an afternoon with a box of tissues and this extremely moving book.  And I cried my little eyes out for the children whose stories "Mr. Rick" tells.  As a special education professional, the author opens a door into a world seldom witnessed by outsiders, and shines a light on the dirty little secrets many people in the field would prefer not be exposed to the eyes of the world.  That such neglect and abuses as these children experienced abound within the public school systems in this country is troubling enough, but the attempts to negate and cover-up these atrocities are unforgivable.

Having raised a special needs child of my own I understand first hand many of the challenges involved in dealing with those who need to be cared for differently.  For those of you who do not know, I have a son with Asperger's Syndrome, a high-functioning form of Autism.  He was also born 7 weeks premature and had a host of minor medical issues as an infant and toddler, most of which resulted from the treatment he received in the hospital after his birth.  My son was non-verbal until he was 5 1/2 years old, and then he pretty much just repeated phrases he had heard in movies for the next year or so.  He could use them "appropriately" in a conversation, but they were not his own words, they were movie lines he had memorized. 

So I had my own reservations about sending my son off to the care of strangers everyday when I was not sure he could tell me what was happening to him each day.  When he started Kindergarten the first time we still did not have an "official" diagnosis.  I had figured it out, but no one wanted to listen to me, I was just his Mother. His teacher actually argued with me, saying there was "no way that child is autistic, he is just spoiled rotten because you refused to send him to day care."  Yes, she actually told me that, and yes, I still had to send my son (and my daughter) off to the care of this woman everyday.  My son was lucky though, he did have his sister.  She is 18 months younger than him, but due to the issues with the school system they ended up starting Kindergarten together.  And all throughout elementary school, I demanded that they be put in the same class together.  Every year, at every school they attended, the administration and the teachers would try to fight me about it, and every year they were forced to put them together.  I knew the only way to ensure he was treated appropriately was to have someone there to speak up for him until he could learn to do it for himself. 

The children whose stories are told in this book didn't have little sisters who could report home to Mom what was happening to them at school.  Their parents trusted that the teachers and administrators at their children's schools were trained professionals who knew how to help their children to learn everything they were capable of learning.  I can only imagine the shock and horror they must have felt when they learned the truth.  But these children were the lucky ones.  They had someone come into their lives who was not only willing to listen to them, but was willing to speak out for them, even when it was not in his own best interests.  How many children are there in our public schools today being abused and mistreated who do not have anyone watching the people who are supposed to be watching out for them?  Even if the number was only one, that would be far too many.  

More than just raising awareness though, this book provides concrete solutions which could eliminate the vast majority of the mistreatment that our most vulnerable children currently endure.  Key among those is appropriate training for the people dealing with these children.  My son attended a total of three different public schools during his elementary school years.  And every time we moved to a new school I was the one who went to the school and educated the teachers on my son's condition and what it would mean to them.  Most of them had never even heard of Asperger's Syndrome, and the only thing they knew about Autism came from the movie "Rain Man".  Because my son was in mainstream classes I also asked that the teachers inform and educate the other students about his condition so there would be no excuses for his mistreatment from anyone.  And because they were educated, he had very few problems with the other kids, they accepted him for who he was, quirks and all.

In the closing chapter, Mr. Rick offers a rather simple piece of advise for those dealing with special needs children that I think everyone should apply to every interaction they have with another person.  "If someone was treating me in the same manner in which I'm treating this child, would I be fine with it?"  Treat others as you want to be treated.  Its a pretty simple rule that a lot of people seem to forget these days.  Special needs children are just children, small people who need love, compassion, and understanding, just like every other human being on the planet.  They should be treated as such.  They deserve nothing less.  

As much as I resisted reading this book in the beginning, I am extremely grateful that the author asked me to do so.   And I am even more grateful that he wrote it in the first place.  By speaking out against the mistreatment of these children and others, he has placed his own career on the line more than once.  Those who would prefer no one knows what they have done, and will continue to do if left unchecked, fight relentlessly against anyone challenging their status quo.  

As painful as it is to see the reality depicted within the pages of this book, everyone needs to know the truth of what is happening so that we can end it now.  Evil feeds on ignorance.  Together we can make a better world for all of our children, but only if we are willing to open our eyes to what is wrong, and demand that it be changed.  In his book, "Mommy, I Wish I Could Tell You What They Did To Me In School Today." Richard S. Stripp, Sr, does exactly that.  I hope all of you will read this extremely moving book and join with me in support of his efforts to reform a defective and dangerous system.  For all of our children.
            

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11 comments:

  1. Nick, my 18 year old nephew, has asperger's as well. He is hands down the most amazing man in our world. He was educated in New Jersey public school zystem and Graduates this June. I am honored to be his Aunt. I will read the book. xx

    Joyce Raftery

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  2. Someone once said that some people become teachers because they like children, but some people become teachers because Nazism is illegal. Children become inured to the crappy behaviour of some of their teachers at a very young age and just accept it as a fact of life. I see it almost every day.

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  3. Thanks for reviewing this book and for writing about the need for advocacy. I wish someone had been there for my son who is now an adult and still facing put-downs from people who should know better, like bank managers!

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  4. My son has Asperger's as well, but he had the exact opposite situation. He spoke earlier, was reading 3rd grade material at age 3 and doing 2nd grade math at age 4. He was always ahead of the other kids, so I never thought he had this. The only way I knew was he had rage issues, anxiety, and would obsess over things. He was diagnosed with anxiety, and we dealt with the anger and rage issues through counseling. In the 4th grade, he was being bullied by his teacher because he was bored in class so he zoned out. He would come home crying that his teachers would yell at him. During a meeting, I was told that my son doesn't care about school (he had straight A's) and it was my fault my son wasn't paying attention. I told her he was probably bored and that was HER fault. When she said that my son was a disturbance to her class because she had to stop lessons to call him out, I knew I needed to put him in private school. It was the right move because he was not bored, and he had to work hard for his grades that always came so easy. He still maintained honor roll, but he got his first B.It wasn't until he was 10 that he was finally diagnosed correctly, and with medications he can function without having panic attacks at school. Teachers need to learn that not every child who zones out in class are doing so to be disrespectful, and as parents we always need to advocate for our kids. I definitely plan to read this book.

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    1. I agree with you. I put my 9 year old in a Charter school this year because the daily transitions to gym, music, etc where when he had his most aggressive behaviors. This Charter school did all those in the classroom. But his teacher continued to tell me that he was disrupting the class by tapping his pencil or that he just didn't want to do the work. For all the times he has been suspended for aggressive acts, which is alot, he is still grade level. Any time I asked what was triggering his behavior, I was told 'he doesn't want to work'. any time I suggested a sensory break, like a walk down the hall, I was told they wouldn't reward his acting out. He has a diagnosis of Aspergers/bipolar/intermittent explosive disorder, but they still refused to work with him. I pulled him out after they started restraining him. He is back in public school, but if this doesn't work, I am considering home schooling him. So frustrated with the schools.

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  5. I dont even have to read this book. I dont think I even could. I have a 9 yr old with undiagnosed aspergers who was nonverbal for some time. I wont get into his story here but he is homeschooled now and I believe every special needs parent and teacher should read this book, and there should be cameras and voice recordings in every day care and special ed classroom and common area.

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  6. I don't understand why potential cops have to undergo psychological testing before they are allowed to deal with criminals, but no one demands that potential teachers be tested before they are allowed to deal WITH CHILDREN!

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  7. here is what they do to my child: ( I tried to post picture of closet but it would not let me)
    After my child’s (who is 8 with Autism and SPD) psychologist and psychiatrist told my child’s school that the use of almost daily physical restraint was not good because it only escalated aggressive behavior and is bad for my child’s mental health the school decided to build what can only be a “closet” to put my child in when behavior is difficult. I call it this because it is inside another room and is smaller than my small bedroom closet. It is not finished yet as they will pad the inside of it like in an institution. My child is NOT an animal, a criminal or a mental patient and that is what this “closet” reminds me of! The psychologist has written a behavior plan that does not involve physical restraint and uses positive behavior forms. The psychologist has told the school she will come in and train them how to use this plan. But she said it is up to them to be consistent and implement it. It takes more work to use this individualized behavior plan that is specific to my child and requires knowledge and skill and time. To toss a child in the “closet” is much easier!! My child now hates school, is afraid of adults, has horrible self-esteem, cries, is afraid of the dark, is hitting himself, calls himself stupid all the time and says he is the “devil” (this is what a staff member told him). I have found out the hard way that when you fight for your special needs child and start advocating on their behalf for what they are guaranteed by FEDERAL LAW you are now an enemy to the school district. When I showed these pictures to my child’s advocate the advocate said “Oh my God” I am only posting one picture because I don’t know how to post more than one. This closet will be in use soon and I am afraid if they put my child in here it will kill him. My heart is broken My anger is beyond words. My very soul is breaking with hurt for my child. Shouldn’t school be a safe nurturing place to educate our children with Autism? School shouldn’t hurt and mentally destroy developing brains! Please has anyone else experienced this? Im afraid to send my child to school tomorrow. Restaint and Seclusion DOESN’T WORK!

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    1. I am at a loss for words. If you, as a parent EVER put your child in something like that YOU would go directly to JAIL! How the hell can they get away with it? That is beyond sick! It is ABUSE!

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    2. I personally would not send my child to that school tomorrow PERIOD! Don't send him to school. Start looking at other options. This is not worth it.

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  8. As the teacher sends my son out to come over to talk to me, I walk up to the teacher with trepadation. My son is sad, and a "bit freaked out". The teacher apologises, she is not in the class tommorrow and let them know that they will be going to the year 2 class with Mrs G for the morning. She forgot to send my son on an "important job" while telling the class, and is worried about him.

    These are the arrangements she made for him:
    * moved all his sensory corner to the year 2 class for him if he felt over whelmed
    * organised that the casual teacher be one who worked with him regularly last year that he knows and is comfortable with
    * Let the casual know that he didn't need to be pushed to do the work that he could try it and if it was too mch he could go to the pillow (sensory area).
    * Checked at recess how he went, gave him a hug and sticker for the good job, and came and told me how well he did.

    This is how teachers should be. Each day, week and term my son learns and excels, because of the care and love that the teachers put in. I have more stories about the teachers at his school going the extra mile, and I cry at the thought that others aren't getting the care that these teachers give.

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