Sometimes it Can Get Cloudy

IEP meetings can be dreadful. Sometimes, parents can feel like it’s them against the school staff of professionals. We want to believe that everyone sitting in the room has one common denominator…the child. They want to believe that the discussions is in the best interest of the child. Sometimes, questions are posed in the parents’ minds.

Recently, I had a staff member continuously tell me “don’t get upset” about disciplinary consequences after my stance on my son not currently being in the least restrictive environment. Immediately, I thought how someone believed they could tell me what and what not to feel. After it being said more than 3 times, I began to hear “don’t be the angry black woman when your child gets in trouble” so I had to briefly address racial differences and racism in society. Now, I’m not accusing anyone in that room of being racist but the dialog hinted of racism; subtle or subconscious.

Being the only person of color in the room, I explained that I’m raising an African American son in a society when young Black boys are being shot and killed by the streets, vigilante neighbors, and police officers. My son looks older than his age (13) and is taller than the average adult male. The odds are already stacked against him and then we have to add autism to the mix. I informed them that I’ve had to spend more time teaching my child how to conduct himself in the presence of police/authority more than I’ve been able to have sex education conversations.

Race is a touchy subject and many don’t want to engage in the conversation unless they’re hiding behind a computer or smart phone. It was uncomfortable for me as well but it was necessary to say. Many of the school staff that engages with my son daily are mostly Caucasian women. Phrases like “we can’t control him” or “we fear for the safety of others and himself” have been stated to me more times than I can count.

I want to believe there isn’t subliminal racial tones occurring in meetings and conversations. I want to believe there is a genuine concern for my son and his well-being going forward. This blog isn’t to assume or imply that there is any sort of racism with the school staff but I can still acknowledge life experiences and media stereotypes plays a part when dealing with people from different races. In the end, I respect the staff 100% and I hope I have the same in return. These are the people I’ve entrusted to give my son a fair and appropriate education.

BBA (Being Black with Autism)

I remember being so excited when I learned I was having a boy.  I’m such a tomboy so having a son was perfect for me. I dreamt of cheering him on at his football and basketball games. The ideas were endless of what I thought his childhood would be like.

In 2005, after recovering from craniosynostosis surgery, I read a newspaper article about autism. My heart sank.  The symptoms list described many of the things Preston did; lining up toys, made little eye contact, limited speech, preferred to play alone. I asked doctors if he had autism. My questions were dismissed. I was told his developmental delays would be improve in time.

Beginning in Preston’s preschool years, the behaviors became extreme. They were impulsive and physical. Although there was no real explanation for it, doctors wanted to put him on medication.  I refused. He was finally diagnosed with autism at the age of 6. Problem with is that is early intervention a vital. Preston missed out on valuable time of getting the care he needed. We had to play catch up.

Preston has always towered over his peers. His teachers have all been females particularly white. This can be problematic due to the cultural and gender differences. These behaviors mainly happened at school. Many times, I was told “we can’t control him” or “his behavior is threat to the safety of others.”  He was sent home. As a parent, those are hurtful things to hear about your child. I worked with the staff but yet I was still fearful of the authorities being called.

I was told a few times that they would have no choice but to call the police if I didn’t pick him up.

I’ve taught my son to call 911 in case of emergencies. I want him to be able to go to the authorities when necessary. Due to the tragic Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown situations(just to name a few), I’ve had to give my son the painful truth about what can happen when some officers have come into contact with black males.

I fear for my son because he’s on the autism spectrum.  Police have limited training in dealing with those with mental disabilities.  It breaks my heart with every video of police arresting young autistic boys (regardless of color). Some have been shot and killed by the police.

I worry about it because he can be aggressive when he becomes overwhelmed, frustrated or feel threatened. What happens to my son if he doesn’t comply in the manner they demand he should? Will they shoot him? I try to teach my son how to conduct himself in the presence of the law even though he’s still struggling with social cues and making friends. Children with autism are 6 times more likely to have contact with the police in comparison to peers who are not autistic.

My son is Black and has autism; one alone is a challenge but both can bring about devastating circumstances.

There was a time when the police called me about an incident that occurred at my son’s school. I explained to the officer that my son has autism. His response was “I understand that, but I was told he’s big for his age” and even suggested that I give them a call if my son’s behavior ever became too much for me to handle.  At this time, Preston was 9.

Why would I call the police on my 9-year-old child?

Not all officers are bad.  I know some excellent men(and women) on the force.  I want my son to know that the police are there to protect and serve.  Unfortunately, we have to discuss the bad outcomes that have occurred as well.

I don’t want my son to be the latest headline.  I don’t want to lose him to someone who, more than likely, will never see a day in jail for taking his life.

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