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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