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Thread: School Rules

  1. #1
    Senior Member substitute's Avatar
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    Default School Rules

    I have an autistic daughter. Because of her autism, she has difficulty in understanding subtle social rules and etiquettes.

    The school she goes to has a very strict rule that says no child is allowed to use any word or nickname towards another child that mentions or 'picks on' some physical or other aspect that marks them as 'different'. This they apply to all things, whether to do with skin colour, religion, height, mental illness, financial status - anything.

    On the surface of it, you'd think that's a good rule. But consider this situation:

    My autistic daughter has been drilled in the idea that it's "Bad" to say things to people that hurt and upset them, and that you shouldn't call somebody something if they find it insulting or hurtful, even if you don't mean it that way. Another good principle.

    She has a friend at school whom she nicknames "Mini Midget", because she's very small. Mini doesn't mind this nickname at all - it's said in an affectionate way and basically creates a positive thing regarding her small stature, that it's a cause of affection. It's obvious to both kids and anyone who sees them, hugging and laughing with each other, that this nickname is an innocent and even positive thing. Moreover, it's a success on the autism front, because my daughter has correctly assessed that it's okay to call her Mini, because she's checked that she likes it and is not hurt by it.

    However, whenever a teacher catches my daughter using the nickname, she gets punished. I spoke at length to the headteacher/principal about it this morning, to find out why she was being punished for something innocent and harmless. he recited to me the rule that I described above, and likened what my daughter is doing to racism; he asserted that to allow her to go ahead with calling her friend Mini Midget, they would be sending a message to other kids that it's okay to use discriminatory insults such as racist slurs etc.

    I said that's hogwash, that all that's achieving is forcing people to deny the differences between them and pretend they don't notice them, when it's better to notice and celebrate the differences. He said that what my daughter does can hardly be called 'celebrating' the difference of this kid being very small, and that it couldn't be allowed just in case other small kids heard it and took it as a statement of them being inferior or objects of fun - I tried to explain that he was stuck on the word out of context and not seeing the reality that in fact the effect was very positive and that, regardless of whether he liked the words being used or not, the effect was that Mini is made to feel positive about her small-ness, that it's not an object of ridicule but of affection and friendship.

    But he simply wouldn't budge. he kept on likening it to allowing kids to call a black kid by racist names etc. I said he's gone over the top with political correctness, and that a normal part of life and especially childhood is that you get these affectionate nicknames and that they usually do stem from some outstanding physical feature. I said he was swimming against the tide of normal human behaviour and a part of social interactions that has many positive uses. he said it can't be allowed because of the possibility of it having negative uses.

    I said that surely as a Catholic school, professing to be guided by Christian principles, surely the bottom line as to how they teach kids to distinguish between right and wrong should be the litmus test of "does it hurt somebody", and that things that are Wrong are so because they hurt somebody. But in fact he's teaching that what makes something Wrong is the fact that it could, in another context, hurt somebody or be used to do so, even though in this context it isn't.

    I also said that I'm going to have a devil of a job explaining to my autistic daughter his rather rigid and unreasonable point of view or getting her to obey it, because she relentlessly points out the reality that NO HARM IS BEING DONE, and I've taught her that this is the guiding principle of how to tell if you're doing right.

    He won't shift on his position. My daughter won't stop using the nickname. It's a deadlock.

    Advice, anyone? Thoughts?
    Ils se d�merdent, les mecs: trop bon, trop con..................................MY BLOG!

    "When it all comes down to dust
    I will kill you if I must
    I will help you if I can" - Leonard Cohen

  2. #2
    Senior Member WobblyStilettos's Avatar
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    He sounds like a complete and utter... -ahem-

    Anyway, sorry to hear that you're in such a difficult position I don't really know what you could do, other than maybe write to your local newspaper about it? Public pressure might help your cause. Are there any higher-ups you could talk to about it instead? School governers or anything? Good luck with getting it sorted out
    Where you used to be, there is a hole in the world, which I find myself constantly walking around in the daytime, and falling into at night. I miss you like hell. ~Edna St. Vincent Millay

  3. #3
    Senior Member cafe's Avatar
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    Could a compromise be worked out where your daughter called her friend MM or M&M? That lets her have a secret code name for her friend that keeps its meaning while (hopefully) placating the anal powers that be.

    Edit: Part of teaching autistic kids to get along is, IMO, teaching them that sometimes we have to humor people in charge, even if they want something totally stupid.
    “There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.”
    ~ John Rogers

  4. #4
    Senior Member prplchknz's Avatar
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    I've had my fair share of "it's against the rules, but what you are doing is not actually hurting anyone" growing up. I still don't understand why I had to eat that sandwich (it was a peanutbutter and banana sandwhich and the banana's had been bruised and it looked unappetizing so I threw it out in the bag a teacher on duty caught me and said I had to eat the sandwhich even though I had other things in my lunch I refused to eat it so I missed a huge part recess I finally gave in because I wanted to play, but I cried and gagged the whole time (I probably wouldn't have done anything besides swing, but as a 9 year old it's humilating to sit out the whole recess because you won't eat a sandwhich that had been in the trash, ok so it was still in the baggie sealed and was at the top but still) I don't remember if I told my mom or not. I think I might have and took the teacher's side (something she would do, by saying "Oh, I'm sure it's not that bad") I remember their was a rule about having to eat all your food before you could begin your drink which I thought was stupid. This was a private school this is the same school that made my life hell and took 3-4 years of begging for my parents to take me out of it. I hate that school.

    So I don't know except some teachers suck and are unwilling to bend the rules no matter what. It's not fair that you're daughter can't call her friend that nickname even though the friend approves.
    In no likes experiment.

    that is all

    i dunno what else to say so

  5. #5
    Senior Member substitute's Avatar
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    cafe, I've taken that approach with her, we figured out that she could name her friend after a small Pokemon and then if any teachers ask why she calls her that she can say it's because it's her favourite Pokemon and she loves her friend lol

    I just worry about this because we can figure it out this time, but in future there are gonna be other episodes like this and she won't have the nowse to judge each one or figure out a way to compromise and get away with it by herself, not until she's already been (from her POV) arbitrarily punished.

    I'm thinking of just home schooling her... cos she doesn't really learn much academically there, and the social pressure on her when she's at such a disadvantage seems to often undo the hard work her therapist and I do with her.

    It would be a big step though because it'd mean effectively giving up all the stuff I do during the day when they're both at school, and as a single parent, it'd mean I'd basically never get a day or even a few hours off...

    edit - actually I wonder what he'd make of it if I were to tell him that this is my approach: that I've explained to her that sometimes you just have to humour the people in authority, no matter how retarded and unreasonable their rules are
    Ils se d�merdent, les mecs: trop bon, trop con..................................MY BLOG!

    "When it all comes down to dust
    I will kill you if I must
    I will help you if I can" - Leonard Cohen

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    Senior Member cafe's Avatar
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    I have one kid (strangely not one of my autistics, lol) at home right now and even as a married parent, it's hard. If it's doing more harm than good having her there, though, I see what you mean. School really isn't very much like real life so I don't think it is really that valuable as a socialization tool. The academics are more important, much more important, because if she has the academics down it will allow her choices about what work she does when she's grown so that she can pick an environment that allows her to follow her inner values of right and wrong, the ones you are helping to form.

    Quote Originally Posted by substitute View Post
    edit - actually I wonder what he'd make of it if I were to tell him that this is my approach: that I've explained to her that sometimes you just have to humour the people in authority, no matter how retarded and unreasonable their rules are
    I don't know what else he expects of you since that is essentially what he's asking for: mindless humoring.

    When I told my kids' principal that she was essentially punishing me for telling the truth because I was honest that I was keeping my kids home one day on my better judgment and said as much instead of lying and saying they were sick (she sent the truant officer to our house :rolli. I've never heard someone backpedal so fast in my life. It was amusing and she hasn't spoken to me since. She actually pretends she doesn't see me and practically scurries away.
    “There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.”
    ~ John Rogers

  7. #7
    Strongly Ambivalent Ivy's Avatar
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    I don't know what the education landscape is like where you are, but when The Man was getting me down, my mom found a Quaker school for me. They're very un-schoolish as schools go. Homeschool wasn't a good choice for me at the time (it was perfect for high school, but I would have been isolated if I had homeschooled in middle school because there were literally NO other homeschooled kids at the time).

    That said, I don't think it would be the worst thing in the world for your daughter to just not use the nickname at school. Like you say, sometimes you do just have to humor the people in charge. Like when the madmins of an internet forum decide to temporarily ban a user some people actually like. Just a random example. *cough*
    The one who buggers a fire burns his penis
    -anonymous graffiti in the basilica at Pompeii

  8. #8
    Senior Member substitute's Avatar
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    I see what you mean Ivy... the trouble is that whether I agree or not that she shouldn't use the nickname, that doesn't guaruntee anything about whether she will stop it or not!!

    There are other issues as well, such as toilet issues... they deny her permission to use the bathroom when she needs it because, the principal says, they 'encourage' the kids to use the bathroom at certain set times, so they shouldn't need to go during lesson time. However my daughter is very out of touch with her physical needs and often doesn't notice she needs the bathroom until she's bursting, and if she wets herself she also might not notice until someone else points out that she's wet or smelly! She really needs to be allowed to go when she asks... personally I think it's absurd to have people needing permission to use the bathroom as it is... but there are so many issues with that school just not handling her properly... I mean none of the other staff besides her actual main teacher have been briefed or informed properly about her autism, which is ridiculous when she's been there for 5 years now.

    That's interesting about the Quaker school... I'll have to look it up and see if there are any nearby and go have a look.
    Ils se d�merdent, les mecs: trop bon, trop con..................................MY BLOG!

    "When it all comes down to dust
    I will kill you if I must
    I will help you if I can" - Leonard Cohen

  9. #9
    Strongly Ambivalent Ivy's Avatar
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    WTF? Oh, I'd be so out of there. When they start controlling the children down to their bladder and bowel functions, that is a bit too much control for me.

    Edit: actually it's too much control for me well in advance of that. I'm a bit of a radical, educationally speaking.
    The one who buggers a fire burns his penis
    -anonymous graffiti in the basilica at Pompeii

  10. #10
    Senior Member Eileen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by substitute View Post
    I see what you mean Ivy... the trouble is that whether I agree or not that she shouldn't use the nickname, that doesn't guaruntee anything about whether she will stop it or not!!

    There are other issues as well, such as toilet issues... they deny her permission to use the bathroom when she needs it because, the principal says, they 'encourage' the kids to use the bathroom at certain set times, so they shouldn't need to go during lesson time. However my daughter is very out of touch with her physical needs and often doesn't notice she needs the bathroom until she's bursting, and if she wets herself she also might not notice until someone else points out that she's wet or smelly! She really needs to be allowed to go when she asks... personally I think it's absurd to have people needing permission to use the bathroom as it is... but there are so many issues with that school just not handling her properly... I mean none of the other staff besides her actual main teacher have been briefed or informed properly about her autism, which is ridiculous when she's been there for 5 years now.

    That's interesting about the Quaker school... I'll have to look it up and see if there are any nearby and go have a look.
    I'm in favor of teaching people to plan when they take breaks in a sensible way because it is disruptive to have people asking for passes and leaving all the time (and I've seen the same kids every day wandering the halls very slowly during classes, peering into other classrooms' windows, wasting their time and missing instruction for a "bathroom emergency"). However, it's unreasonable to categorically deny people bathroom breaks... ESPECIALLY if they have a medical reason for needing to take them.

    What I do with my (almost all non-autistic, mind you) kids is this: each six-weeks grading period, I give them a pass with three "outs." If they need them, they can use them. If they don't use them, I give them extra credit at the end of the six-weeks period. It's just up to them. If they want the points, they'll schedule their restroom visits for between classes. If they have an emergency, they have three opportunities. I think this is a reasonable way to address the whole bathroom issue. I have almost no issues with kids leaving class because they are given a choice and recognize that they're using their own agency with regard to bathroom visits (and you'd be surprised how many kids learn that YES! THEY CAN CONTROL THEIR BODY FUNCTIONS!).

    But substitute, your daughter's situation IS exceptional and should be regarded as such. It's ridiculous that she has to deal with ill-informed teachers who don't take the time to consider how her needs might be different from someone else's.
    INFJ

    "I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. You can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality." -Martin Luther King, Jr.

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