Friday, September 14, 2007

Encouraging Tolerance and Acceptance in Public Schools

(No, this is not the ‘Acceptance’ post that I keep saying I’m going to write. But I have started it…)

I’ve been thinking about tolerance and acceptance for a while now, and with the Bear’s entry into Kindergarten the subject is very top of mind. Recently (at least in ‘Ian time’) Kristina posted What is your dream autism school? over at AutismVox. One of the comments particularly struck me:

"The public school’s sole responsibility is to educate children. It is not the public school’s responsibility to dictate sociological norms, ethical norms, and religious norms. The public schools have repeatedly displayed time and time again that they will never be able to adequately parent a child. The society that expects a public school to parent to the children they teach is always weakened by that expectation."

To which I responded:

"Other than on the last one (religious norms) and softening the word ‘dictate’ (I would suggest something between disseminate and encourage) I would disagree. Part of educating children is teaching them about the rights and responsibilities that come with being part of society. Building ‘good citizens’ has been an implicit - where not explicit - part of the public school agenda since the beginning of universal public education, in the U.S. and much of the world. In the Western world the rise of the nation-state and the introduction of universal public education went hand in hand. This is not the same thing as ‘parenting’.

Teaching tolerance and acceptance of diversity is a legitimate social goal, especially as societies themselves become increasingly diverse. At least in my daughter’s school this is stated as one of the benefits - for the entire student population - of inclusion."


What amazed me in the back and forth that followed was that there should even be any debate about this. (What didn’t surprise me was the typical practice of responding to ‘what I want to say you wrote’ rather than what I actually did write.) Regardless of whether public schools ARE teaching tolerance and acceptance – which is a different, although related issue - do people not feel that teaching tolerance and acceptance of others is one of the school system’s responsibilities?

To those who argue that the school’s responsibility is to educate, do they not feel that social education is also part of this? Children do not sit isolated in cubicles but are part of a classroom and a school, and ultimately of a community and a society. Are schools not responsible – along with parents - for teaching students how to behave, interact, and treat others in that classroom, school, community and society?

To be clear, I'm not arguing against educating autistic children in separate classrooms or separate schools (or private schools), where appropriate, required, or desired by the family. Instead, I am stating what I believe is the responsibility of the public education system to all students and to society.

In the Bear’s first ‘Friday file’ (the school batches up a lot of communication into a folder that is sent home every Friday, to be read and initialed by parents for return on Monday morning) was a pamphlet entitled “Safe and caring schools”. In this the School Board stressed the importance of school safety, and that this is a shared responsibility between the school, the student, and parents. The Board indicated that:

"We work with parents and the community to help children and teens develop social skills and appropriate behaviours as they learn and grow. We teach all children about safety, healthy choices and positive values and behaviour."

Further, the pamphlet indicated that it is the school's responsibility to (among other items):

”- teach positive behaviour and good citizenship"

" - teach acceptance of and respect for others”


and that it is the student’s responsibility to (among other items):

" - be courteous to fellow students and staff"

" - show respect for the rights and feelings of others"


Parents also have the responsibility to look for ways to reinforce the same messages at home.

The School Board further indicated that "We do not tolerate violence, harassment, racism, verbal and physical abuse, bullying, fighting… intimidation… or any other dangerous, detrimental or inappropriate behaviour" and also that "there are clear consequences for inappropriate behaviour". At a minimum, the School Board has at least accepted and taken ownership of this responsibility.

Some might say that this is just a pamphlet, paying lip service to concepts that are quickly forgotten. But at least in the Bear’s school, this appears not to be the case. In various ongoing talks with the principal and the ASD coordinator, they both have specifically indicated that the school takes a very inclusive approach, where possible, and that one of the benefits of this was that of teaching tolerance and acceptance to all of the children. They also indicated that they ‘buddy-up’ special needs children with peers and older children to help them fit in and find support within the wider school environment. The policy is not one of forced inclusion (there are other options available besides mainstreaming, where appropriate), but of accommodation and support within the school and community environment.

My neighbour’s children previously attended the same school (the youngest finished her last year there in June, before moving on to the next school level this September). I had earlier asked them about whether there were any autistic children at the school, how they were treated, etc., and specifically asked about bullying. The younger child was a ‘buddy’ to one of the autistic children, and indicated that the child was an accepted part of the group and was fun to play with. She considered him a friend. She and the rest of her family also indicated that bullying was not tolerated, and that it was not an issue at the school or in the community.

Since the Bear is new to the school, I can’t say how well the school system will ultimately live up to these ideals in her case. But what I can say is that these principles are an accepted part of school policy and appear to be part of the school and community culture. Today when I dropped the Bear off I talked to the EA about how she was doing, and how well she was interacting with the other children. One of my questions was ‘How well are the other children accepting her?’ So far so good. I indicated that I thought it was just as important that the other children learn to accept the Bear as it was for her to interact with them, and the EA strongly indicated her agreement.

In Ontario, we’re now in the middle of a provincial election campaign. One of the big issues is public school funding, and whether it should be extended to religious schools. I’m not going to dive into the issue, but what I would say is that all three major parties are committed to the idea of Ontario schools being a place of social integration. The party supporting the extension of funding to religious schools is discussing the issue at least in part in terms of bringing them into the public system, teaching the standard curriculum and adhering to provincial guidelines. The parties opposed to this reject the move in part as being counter to the objective of integrating various cultures and religions within the public school system. What is interesting is that all parties appear to see schools as a method of integrating various cultures within a multicultural society, not via conformity but through tolerance and acceptance of differences and diversity.

This is not to say that we don’t have problems, or that everything works here. There are major issues connected with public education in this province (including funding), as well as social issues that need to be addressed. But I would suggest that the idea of the school system being an agent of societal integration, with a mandate to encourage tolerance and acceptance, is a very mainstream idea in this province.

I believe that one of the things we need to work towards is ensuring that autistics are ‘just another group’ towards whom tolerance and acceptance is extended, accepting autistics for who they are now and for whom they will become. Regardless of whether one takes a neurodiversity perspective, a ‘cure’ perspective, or is within the great swath of opinion in between, we all have an interest in having society accept autistics, and accept and endorse the right of accommodation where required. This is one of the areas in which presumably the whole community of those touched by autism could agree? For those who take a neurodiversity perspective I’d suggest that this is probably obvious, but even for those pursuing a cure, presumably the rights of autistic children to acceptance and accommodation as autistics should be accepted and respected until their cure is achieved?

Social change can sometimes happen quickly, but some changes take time to permeate through society. The public school system is probably the most universal of all social programs (the Ministry of Transportation / DMV probably comes close, but it would be difficult to teach acceptance of diversity as part of a driving test). If we do not expect – and where necessary, demand – that the school systems take ownership of their responsibility to teach tolerance and acceptance to the next generation, and ingrain this within society - and hold them accountable for doing so - then who instead do we expect to do this?

Maybe Oprah?

Again, I fail to see why this is controversial.

29 comments:

Dragon said...

I just had a conversation on this topic with a transgendered friend. He and I (today I would almost certainly be diagnosed with ASD...back in the day, I was just a weird kid) both found ourselves ostracized in grade school, ignored at best, tormented at worst. Nobody thought much about how kids treated each other; you were expected to tough out any kind of abuse or you were a crybaby, a tattletale, a wimp.

Today I spend a lot of time volunteering with elementary students, and while the district is far from exemplary, there is a strong movement toward inclusion and acceptance. Perhaps in part because of the ethnic diversity of the neighborhood, the children do not discriminate against one another. They are told that everyone in their class is a friend, and caring is taught as one of the four most important values. Equality is the natural state; children know they either share with everyone or with no one. Developmentally disabled kids mainstreamed into the kindergarten classes are embraced by children who have learned that being helpful is a virtue.

Sometimes I find myself wishing that anyone had cared about such things 20 or 25 years ago, back when I was suffering through grade school among peers who only saw my differences. I'm so glad your little Bear is finding her way in the world.

Chuck said...

How do schools determine what is and isn't tolerable and what is and isn't acceptable given that "tolerable", "acceptable", “intolerable”, and “unacceptable” are culturally, religiously, and chronologically dependent? All of the vilest acts against humanity were “tolerable” and “acceptable” at that time by the culture that perpetrated them. My determination of vile is only based on current cultural norms.

Ian Parker said...

Hi Dragon,

Thanks for stopping by and for the nice comment. It is great to hear that the district where you volunteer and the children there have a lot of the same values as my daughter's school. One of the best ways to ensure that these values are held by society - to the benefit of everyone - is to teach them to our children.

Ian Parker said...

Hi Chuck,

I would suggest that there is a significant difference between 'acceptance' and 'what is acceptable'. 'Acceptance' implies both an acknowledgement of difference and a willingness to allow for, work with, and accommodate that difference. ‘What is acceptable’ is a value judgment that implies in this context (regarding diversity) that one has the right to make a judgment as to the acceptability of others.

Similarly, ‘tolerable’ relates to the ability to endure something, while ‘tolerance’ (a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., differ from one's own; freedom from bigotry) is an explicit willingness to allow for difference.

Tolerance and acceptance does not ask you to make a value-laden judgment regarding what you are willing to endure, but rather is about acknowledging, working with, and accommodating differences as required, regardless of whether those differences are preferred.

Given the presumption that you live in the United States, I’d suggest that your schools know the meaning of tolerance and acceptance as it relates to culture, ethnicity, race and probably sexuality, as well as having a sense of where they fall short of the ideal. I’m saying that they also have a responsibility to extend the concept to tolerance and acceptance of autistic students. It isn’t about historical customs or practices, but about what we have a right to expect here and now and going forward.

But really, it boils down to your answer to two basic questions:

1. Do you feel that your ASD child is entitled to tolerance and acceptance by society?
2. If so (if not then this question is moot), do you believe that the public school system has a responsibility to teach tolerance and acceptance, including tolerance and acceptance of ASD.

Note that question 2 is NOT about whether the schools in your community are actually doing this. It is about whether it is their responsibility to do so. You can obfuscate or fudge your answer by saying that they don’t do it. But that is not the question. The question is whether you believe that they have a responsibility to do so.

Well?

farmwifetwo said...

Since I am sitting well to the blue-right (complete with little blue card :) ) That should tell you how I'm voting in a few weeks... and NO!!! on the referendum - unless you live in Toronto, it screws the rest of us. I wish I could show you the letter in our little paper from a principal of the Reform school in town. Did you know that Alberta and other provinces fund all or most forms of education. Therefore giving parents choice?? And their education testing is higher than ours since parents and students are "content" with their choices. It was an amazing letter. The NewPL is having their interview with John Tory tomorrow night at 6:30pm and Sun at 9am if you have satellite. I saw the education part on their preview. I also view it this way "you cannot fund ONE of them and not the rest". Also, McGuinty's "segregation" etc comments border on racism and intolerance and that just upsets me more. But enough of that one :) And what was this crap he said last night about less homework?? I didn't follow it...

Should schools teach acceptance, social skills and tolerance - yes. Do they - in Ontario they atleast pay "lip service" to it. Do they do a good job - NO. But IMO you cannot have these things without consequences and the public school education in this province is "they cannot fail and they cannot be tutored (union will not help parents - my BIL and SIL are teachers) and they must be in highschool by the age of 14". There is no consequenses. Therefore the ones that need the help - socialization, tolerance, conduct - learn quick there isn't any consequenses and if they get suspended... they don't care.... and if there's nothing at home... fall through the cracks.

If you are going to have children 7hrs/day you have to parent them. I - with the help of PDD - finally explained to the school that skills must be taught in each environment. That doesn't just mean children with ASD, that means all children. I can only hope my teaching is transfered, I am not there to do it in the school.

S.

Chuck said...

If the public school system’s definitions of tolerable and acceptabe are in conflict with my cultural and religious beliefs, then it is not the school system’s responsibility to teach “their” definitions of tolerance and acceptance.

If a school system states "We do not tolerate violence, harassment, racism, verbal and physical abuse, bullying, fighting… intimidation… or any other dangerous, detrimental or inappropriate behaviour" and also that "there are clear consequences for inappropriate behaviour". and autistic students have been and continue to be expelled as the consequences, is that tolerable or acceptable? This is not a hypothetical question.

Ian Parker said...

Hi Farmwifetwo,

So don't hold back - who are you voting for? Just kidding. ;-)

I'm not going to talk about how I'm voting, just cuz I don't want my blog to become about politics. But for what it's worth, I support parental choice and like the idea of a voucher system whereby parents and students can vote with their feet as to which school to attend.

I'd agree with your comment about some falling through the cracks and about the lack of consequences for 'non-compliance'. It strikes me as more than a bit odd that the consequences for non-compliance is 'escape' (isn't that a reward?).

Ian Parker said...

Chuck, I could make the observation that you're ducking the two questions above, but what would be the point?

Regarding: "If the public school system’s definitions of tolerable and acceptabe are in conflict with my (emphasis added) cultural and religious beliefs, then it is not the school system’s responsibility to teach “their” definitions of tolerance and acceptance."

So if your (cuz you were clear in it being about 'your') values are those of intolerance, bigotry, hatred, or racism then the school has no responsibility to teach 'their' definitions of tolerance and acceptance? (shakes head)

You really seem to be confusing 'tolerable' and 'acceptable' with tolerance and acceptance. Tolerance and acceptance are not about 'preference'. You do not have to agree with others or like them to practice tolerance and acceptance. Instead it is about respecting their right (and in some cases need) to be different. Their rights of others (many of which are codified in law, precedence and regulation) do not depend on you liking them. Teaching tolerance and acceptance is NOT about teaching preference, but is instead about teaching that others have rights that are to be respected, regardless of your opinion of them.

Regarding "clear consequences for inappropriate behaviour". and autistic students have been and continue to be expelled as the consequences"

There is a clear difference between one's rights and the poor enforcement of same. The fact that your rights are inadequately protected does not negate the fact that you have them or absolve society of the responsibility to protect them. If it did then they wouldn't be rights, would they?

Now (futile sigh), about those two questions...

Chuck said...

Fair enough, I will answer your questions directly.

1) My child, your child, every other child and every other adult is entitled to everything that every other citizen in that society is “entitled” to. Nothing more, nothing less.

2) The only things that public schools have a “responsibility” to teach is what is defined to them in the laws of the society in which they operate.

As usual (shaking head) you have looked at the wrong side of the coin. At what point do you loose your “right” to be “that” different? How does a public school legally define what “that” point is without infringing on the “rights” of all the students? Once “that” point is clearly defined to the school system. They have a responsibility to correct or remove students that display behaviors beyond “that” point. That is pretty much the system we have in place today, is it not?

(Futile sigh) How are your expectations of the responsibilities of public education different then the realities of what public schools currently do?

Ian Parker said...

Hi Chuck,

Re: answering questions 1 & 2, thank you.

Regarding Q1, I would agree with that, in that every child and adult is entitled to tolerance and acceptance, and accommodation where required, not just autistics.

Re: Q2, I'd suggest that the curriculum is defined by the Ministry/Department of Education policies and regulations rather than by statute, except where specifically spelled out by law (e.g. disability legislation, IEP-related legislation, etc.). I'd be extremely surprised if in the United States this did not include a requirement for accommodation of special needs students, and legal recourse for those who do not feel that their needs are being met. That opportunity for legal recourse is presumably why so many families end up negotiating via lawyers and/or taking their school boards to court. I'll comment further on this below.

Regarding the boundaries of the right to be different, I'm under the impression that the boundaries are pretty much established by legislation, regulations, and the courts, but a workable boundary is usually an entitlement for accommodation up to the point at which such accommodation materially impacts the rights and security of others.

For example, if my daughter flaps in class it does not impact others. If she keeps turning the classroom lights off, plunging the room into darkness then that is going too far, and the behaviour needs to be redirected or accommodated in a manner that does not impact others. Regarding bullying, mocking, pejorative comments, etc, I'm not sure how anyone ever has a right to do this at the expense of another, and I can't think of a reason that there would ever be a boundary between the rights of the victim and perpetrator.

Unfortunately, the boundary between the rights of autistics and others are often administered by people without sufficient knowledge, understanding, and training to properly make a call between a minor inconvenience a material impact. This doesn't mean that a right doesn't exist, but it may unfairly preclude its implementation.

Re: "How are your expectations of the responsibilities of public education different then the realities of what public schools currently do?"

That depends on where you live. Where I live they are obviously closer than they appear to be where you live, and pushing for a more robust implementation here is not a waste of time. But at no time did I ever say that these responsibilities were being met, and I would suggest that I was quite clear in distinguishing between what is and what should be. I can go back and quote mine and link if you wish, but given you appearently missed all of them the first time I'm not sure it would help.

Again (stated often in other comments), I can understand why you want to educate your child outside of the public school system, and I have no disagreement with this. If schools here were as universally and unredeemably bad as you claim they are where you live then I would probably do the same as you.

But again, the fact that someone is denying my daughter the right to tolerance and acceptance, and where you live apparently the right to an education, does not mean that she is not entitled to these rights. What it does mean is that these rights are not enforced and protected, which is a separate issue. She has no claim to the enforcement of rights that do not exist, but she does have recourse to rectify restrictions on those that do. The fact that so many parents have to take legal action against their school boards does not mean that the rights of their children do not exist but that they have to fight for what they are entitled to. And that is a tragedy.

Chuck said...

The rights of autistics are not different then the rights of others. If those that administer to the rights of the citizens do not have sufficient knowledge, then everyone’s rights are diminished. (Ceteris paribus) So what sufficient knowledge that is lacking and unique to those with ASD is not already given to the citizens where you live?

“I am stating what I believe is the responsibility of the public education system to all students and to society.”
So your belief is that you need to add to the rights of all citizens something that is currently not a right.

“Are schools not responsible – along with parents - for teaching students how to behave, interact, and treat others in that classroom, school, community and society?” If there is a dichotomy between society and the school, or the school and the parents, which entity should always supersede the others?

Is what you are asking for a belief, a right, or an idea? Schools cannot implement beliefs or ideas, only rights. Enforcement of these rights is a subject neither one of us have addressed, yet.

Ian Parker said...

Chuck wrote:

”The rights of autistics are not different then the rights of others.”

”So your belief is that you need to add to the rights of all citizens something that is currently not a right.”

On the first point, I agree. The right of autistics to tolerance and acceptance is not different than the rights of any others. But it is interesting that when minority groups raise the issue that their rights are the same as those of others that the argument often comes up that somehow they are asking for more rights rather than an enforcement of existing ones.

Tolerance and acceptance are basic rights that relate to the application and enforcement of most if not all other rights. Among other things they speak to the right to exist and live securely, free of threat, persecution, discrimination, and arbitrary exclusion, and to live in an environment free of hostility directed towards one due to different beliefs, needs, and behaviours. Like all rights they are not absolute, but have boundaries that need to be defined, usually at the point at which they conflict with the rights of others.

To illustrate, my daughter has a right to an education. If a fellow student mocks her, imitates her stimming, etc., then although he is not actually blocking her from acquiring an education, his lack of tolerance and acceptance is creating a hostile environment that interferes with the exercising of my daughter’s right to same. He is not required to like my daughter. But he is required to tolerate her behaviour that does not materially interfere with him and to accept her differences. If someone picked on my daughter due to her gender, ethnicity, or religion there would be no question about her rights in this regard. I’m saying that she has the same rights related to her neurological differences. Enforcement of these rights is another issue. But lack of enforcement does not abrogate her rights – instead, it impedes her ability to exercise them to the degree to which she is entitled.

Regarding “more” rights, this is often invoked to challenge accommodation. Some require accommodation to exercise their existing rights to the same degree as others. Accommodation is not “more” rights, but just that – accommodation, based on acceptance of the individual and appropriate recognition of their needs. It is the removal of arbitrary and non-material impediments and rules, and support to overcome obstacles that can not be changed. As an example of accommodation, a person in a wheel chair does not have more rights because of the creation of handicapped parking spaces near the entrance to most facilities. These spaces do not materially impact your rights (good luck getting the other parking spots near the entrance to a busy mall on a Saturday afternoon). Similarly, if someone with fine motor skills issues requires more time to write a test, it is a reasonable accommodation that does not materially interfere with others.

Part of tolerance and acceptance is also the removal of arbitrary rules and restrictions. As a non-ASD example, the city in which I grew up had a height requirement for police candidates, blocking the ability of many otherwise qualified candidates of various ethnic groups from joining the force. This requirement was arbitrary and found to be not materially relevant to the job (no one measured existing officers over time and booted out those whose height had declined below the requirement with age, so apparently 5’ 11” police officers were as qualified as those 6 feet and over), and was modified accordingly. The result was an accommodation that did not materially affect the ability of police officers and resulted in a wider pool of qualified candidates. FWIW, the old barrier was clearly discriminatory, but was not viewed as such until societal perspectives began to change.

Another example, pertaining to ASD is my daughter’s school’s approach to the fact that she is not yet toilet trained. Left to her own devices, this would create obvious health risks in the classroom to her and other students. The approach has been one of tolerance and acceptance of this difference. The EA monitors and changes her as required, and the school set up a discrete change area in one area of the class so as to give her privacy. She also has a toilet insert to enable them to practice putting her on the toilet, as we do at home. The other kids do not have an insert, but in her case the lack of one would impact her ability to learn this skill that the others have already acquired. She is not mocked or berated for her lack of ability. Instead, the problem is tolerated (the EAs don’t have to the like it, although they have both stated that they have no issues – they’re parents and are experienced in this) and she is accepted as she is (they could have alternately taught her in another room away from the others to make this issue easier to deal with, but chose inclusion instead), and treated with respect and accommodation.

Answering your question ”So what sufficient knowledge that is lacking and unique to those with ASD is not already given to the citizens where you live?”, what is still lacking in many is an understanding of what autism is and therefore what reasonable accommodations may exist. Going back to the police example, the height restriction was accepted without thought until its impact and arbitrariness were recognized. Until the issue was understood it was not questioned. Until ASD is better understood, some of the arbitrary impacts of societal thought regarding ASD may also go unrecognized. From what you’ve stated about where you live, I’d suggest that this knowledge is lacking there too.

Chuck wrote:

”If there is a dichotomy between society and the school, or the school and the parents, which entity should always supersede the others?”

It depends on the issue. As an example, you are free to believe and to teach your children that only their religious group goes to heaven. It is not up to society to challenge this belief. But if you teach your children to discriminate against others on the basis of this belief, then it is a legitimate role for the public school system to teach that discrimination on this basis is wrong (and quite likely unlawful to boot).

Tolerance and acceptance is not about having everyone believe the same thing, or requiring you to like the beliefs of others. It is about others having the right to hold views and beliefs that are different to yours without fear of discrimination, persecution, or ill treatment. Obviously there are boundaries on these rights, but they tend to fall around issues of public order and safety. Put another way though, does your school system not teach (implicitly and maybe explicitly) that discrimination based on race or ethnicity is wrong? Or do they send a note home to the parents to check first if this is acceptable?

Chuck wrote:

”Is what you are asking for a belief, a right, or an idea? Schools cannot implement beliefs or ideas, only rights. Enforcement of these rights is a subject neither one of us have addressed, yet.”

To the first sentence, I am arguing that this is a right, not an option. Regarding enforcement, this is obviously much tougher. One of the best ways to enforce rights is through educating society. In the American South, fifty years ago tolerance and acceptance of African-Americans was a much larger and more difficult issue than it is today. The Civil Rights movement and enforcement of civil rights legislation forced tolerance and acceptance onto the agenda, but it was through society’s recognition and acceptance of these pre-existing rights that they became the norm rather than the exception. Education reduces the need for enforcement, much of which is post-facto and sometimes too late to do more than compensate, if that. And public schools are the most ‘universal’ program in society, having the greatest potential to educate and enlighten, if they recognize and accept their responsibility to do so.

Where I live the public school system has accepted and is acting on this responsibility. The result will be a more tolerant and accepting society and a better place to live. It is too bad that the schools where you live apparently have not.

Chuck said...

“Tolerance and acceptance are basic rights that relate to the application and enforcement of most if not all other rights. Among other things they speak to the right to exist and live securely, free of threat, persecution, discrimination, and arbitrary exclusion, and to live in an environment free of hostility directed towards one due to different beliefs, needs, and behaviors.”

Where is this Mag Mell because it doesn’t exist on Earth today?

“Regarding “more” rights, this is often invoked to challenge accommodation”
At what point does society become over accommodating to those with a psychological disorder? You have demonstrated your biased views in regards to ASD only. What about bi-polar? Schizophrenia? ED? MR? At what point do the accommodations to society to every diagnosis in the DSM become an overpowering burden to society? Some are arguing that we have already reached that tipping point.

“Part of tolerance and acceptance is also the removal of arbitrary rules and restrictions.”
How does one determine if a DSM diagnosis is an arbitrary restriction or can materially affect the ability to perform the job? How do you think society would react if the removal of “arbitrary rules and restrictions” caused an excessive loss to employment and an excessive tax expense increase that became unpopular? (Once again, not a hypothetical situation)

“Put another way though, does your school system not teach (implicitly and maybe explicitly) that discrimination based on race or ethnicity is wrong? Or do they send a note home to the parents to check first if this is acceptable?”

Members of the community must approve teaching curriculum, where I live. Mostly parents of students do this approval process. Some issues do require the schools to check with the parents if it is acceptable.

Determining if a society has any “tolerance and acceptance” is as subjective as the diagnosis criteria for ASD. Qualifying an individual’s perception of a subjective society measurement is difficult, if not impossible. Given these two statements, it becomes categorically impossible to determine if one society is any better then another based on two individual’s observations, so stop doing so. There are no unbiased objective reference points to make that determination between where you live and where I live.

Ian Parker said...

Regarding your first quote, the fact that they are rights - and remember, I was stating that they apply to all people - does not mean that they are universally upheld. There are people who actively oppose the application of certain rights to others, or argue that they don't exist, ignore them, or violate them regardless. I'm almost curious as to which of "exist and live securely, free of threat, persecution, discrimination, and arbitrary exclusion, and to live in an environment free of hostility directed towards one due to different beliefs, needs, and behaviors" you consider optional or expendable.

Clearly you do not believe that those with ASD are entitled to tolerance and acceptance, and "So your belief is that you need to add to the rights of all citizens something that is currently not a right" indicates that you do not believe that anyone is ‘entitled’ to them. You have also clearly stated that you oppose the teaching of the right to tolerance and acceptance in the public school system, without reference to ASD. Apparently it is up to parents rather than society (and the public school system as its agent) to determine and teach who is worthy enough to merit tolerance and acceptance, and by clear implication, who is not. I’m not sure there’s much more to say.

You wrote:

"At what point does society become over accommodating to those with a psychological disorder? You have demonstrated your biased views in regards to ASD only. What about bi-polar? Schizophrenia? ED? MR? At what point do the accommodations to society to every diagnosis in the DSM become an overpowering burden to society?"

Wow, that just about sums it up for me. If expecting reasonable (yup, I used that word) accommodation for those with ASD is a biased view, then I guess I’ll accept that – but I’ll take it as a compliment. It would be an interesting question as to what you would have society do with those who do not merit reasonable accommodation.

Regarding removal of arbitrary rules, "How does one determine if a DSM diagnosis is an arbitrary restriction or can materially affect the ability to perform the job?", it is not the diagnosis that is the restriction. It is in part a question of whether the job requirements are really requirements or ‘just the way things have been done’, i.e. can the role be just as competently filled with variations in requirements and/or reasonable (there's that word again) accommodations. Accommodation is not a matter of eliminating job requirements that are necessary for the proper performance of the role. I’m not aware of anyone asking for accommodation for those who cannot 'do the job'. Putting people into roles that they cannot perform is not doing them any favours, but is in fact bad for them as well.

Regarding employment, I’m not sure who would lose their job through accommodation (wouldn’t this ‘excessive over-accommodation’ create employment?), but the tax issue is a serious consideration. I would relate this one again back to what you would have society do with those who do not merit accommodation. Yes, society has to make choices, and part of this involves finding economical and cost-effective ways of accommodating the needs of those who require support. Given the aging of society, the number of people requiring support will only increase over time. I would argue that we (as societies) have not even begun to scratch the surface of exploring how this could be done, and as such it is far too early to suggest that a reasonable balance can’t be achieved. At issue is the commitment to try. I would suggest that one way to measure a society is how it treats those who require assistance.

I wrote:

"Where I live the public school system has accepted and is acting on this responsibility. The result will be a more tolerant and accepting society and a better place to live. It is too bad that the schools where you live apparently have not."

‘The result will be a more tolerant and accepting society and a better place to live’ is stating that my society’s investment in teaching tolerance and acceptance today will make my society a better place to live in the future, with the comparison being between my society’s current and future states. No comparison was intended between my society and yours. The reference to where you live was intended as indicating that - from my POV - it is too bad that your society is not using this method to change (in my POV for the better) its own future. No comparison between societies was intended. Having said that, if your views regarding the rights of others are an accurate reflection of those of the society in which you live, then I am glad that I don’t live there. I’ll assume you feel the same about where I live, and if so, fair enough.

Anyway, this has gone on long enough. We’ve both stated our views and clearly we are in disagreement. I have no interest in restating the same views in x number of ways to try to convince you of the rights of my daughter and the responsibilities of the public school system to both teach and uphold them. You have also had ample opportunity to convince me and anyone who reads this that these rights do not exist, for her or anyone, and that the public school system has no responsibility to teach or uphold them. And given your statement that you continue to go to public school budget meetings "to be a thorn in their side", I have little doubt that you would keep coming back here indefinitely too to restate this. As such, I’ll save us both some time – we’re done here.

Thanks for stopping by.

Chuck said...

If you give up this easily in a debate, you won't be of much assistance to your child in the long run. I do not give up on my children that easily. Good luck to you in your endeavors.

Ian Parker said...

Given that we're each saying the same thing over and over again in different ways, and the fact that I was spending too much time going back and forth with you and not enough with my daughter, I prefer to think of it as good (but late) 'prioritization'.

In reply to a comment I made on Kristina’s blog:

”“I think it is still worth making an effort to work with the system rather than giving up on day one.”

You replied:

"We spent years trying to go down that road with both our children and it was completely fruitless. We will disagree heavily on this point."

and then pursued other avenues for your child. Given that it is not you that I need to convince, I think of this in the same way.

Good luck to you also.

farmwifetwo said...

You did manage to open a can of worms didn't you :) I tried to post earlier but I think you were writing one or more of those comments.

IMO the only thing that I truly have an issue with is harming others. My children do not do this, through considerable behaviour therapy by their Mother. Well, the eldest, the little one I never had those issues.

You'll find a blog post about a mth ago on my views on excessive, violent behaviour to be inexcusable and not normal.

They removed a child at the end of SK this year to a DC class due to behavioural. I have to admit, removing him from my son's classroom... does not upset me and had he harmed my son... the school and board would have had to deal with me.

I have to admit, although it's not my first choice for schooling for my children, with the change in admin, they are trying. I'll accept that for now.

S.

Ian Parker said...

Hi Farmwifetwo,

I would agree with you re: violent behaviour, and include in this the threat of violent behaviour.

My "without sufficient knowledge" statement was written with 'threatening' behaviour in mind. Some people who do not understand ASD might consider certain solitary behaviours (e.g. some stimming) as threatening, even though they are not.

But an ASD diagnosis is not an excuse to harm others, just as it is not an excuse for others to harm those with a diagnosis.

farmwifetwo said...

I admit I gave up trying to follow the back and forth. I felt I missed half the conversation somewhere.

As for stims etc. They need to be addressed and worked on but not shunned and called inappropriate. They aren't harming anyone else.

I have gotten a token complaint about the little one but they are trying to find other ways for him to 'stim' and not wring his hands and use vocal noise (I have blogged about that before too... and IBI....). The OT is trying to find a more "socially acceptable" solution and still give him what he requires.

Truth is, the kids no longer notice nor do they care.

Have you read Joy of Autism's blog post a couple of days ago on "the short answer".. that's what I call the post... I posted there... but I used the SA today at the Dr's... and posted it.

S.

Ian Parker said...

Hi Farmwifetwo,

You did miss half the conversation. ;-)

It started over at AutismVox in the comments.

I sometimes use the short answer too. Autism can be a perseveration for me, but I realize it is not everyone else's. If I really want to shorten it, I say "She doesn't talk yet" and leave it at that. The Bear is who she is, as we all are, and doesn't 'require' explaining to anyone.

Dadof6Autistickids said...

I'm not aware if Canada has the US equivalent of an IEP? We have 4 ASD children attending public schools here and their IEP (Individualized Education Program) states specific behaviour goals.

Our 3 oldest are Aspergers and behavioural goals are what they mainly need. Of course the schools are not to replace Mom and Dad, they are partners...hopefully.

So to those who question if the schools can do a good or moral job, be involved. Know what your kids are doing and know and partner with their teachers.

Sending them off to school and hoping all is well doesn't work. Once you have an Autistic child, Autism is YOUR life.

farmwifetwo said...

Dadof6kids - the US IEP is more comprehensive and legalling binding. To get that level of "Legal-ness".. we have a document called an IPRC. The autism IEP does have 3 catagories for goals on speech/language, socialization and behavioural. A space for goals for each and a list of goals to choose from.

Ian, do you know what the training entails for the school boards regarding ABA training?? And it's implications for the children?? My VP and EA go today... I am pls'd TO (Geneva) is going to do it and not TVCC

S.

Ian Parker said...

Hi Dadof6autistickids (Wow!)

Thanks for dropping by. I definitely agree with the idea of being involved.

Hi Farmwifetwo,

I'm not sure how much of the school board training relates to ABA. I know the EAs are doing some of the same programs that the Bear does at IBI - matching, colours, gross and fine motor skills, etc - but it is not doctrinaire ABA in either case as far as I can tell (it is much more flexible, for a start). We'll find out more after Thanksgiving next week, when we're having a meeting of all concerned to discuss how to proceed with the Bear. At the moment everyone is still getting to know her and assessing abilities, needs, etc.

I've heard from our school board autism coordinator that the schools may be taking more of an active ABA role in the future, but I'm not sure what that really means. I know our teacher and EAs were at a workshop put on by the autism coordinator, but they all have prior experience, so I'm not sure what was covered.

Re: The Geneva Centre, I haven't had too much contact with them, but what I have seen looks good. Our music therapist works there, and she was quite good. I know they offer private ABA, and also run workshops that look interesting. A friend of a cousin worked there too, and he seemed both knowledgeable and capable (and interested too). I'd also have more confidence in them than in some other groups in terms of 'training the trainers'.

farmwifetwo said...

We'll see what happens or PDD meeting is now on Tues. PDD teacher wanted to know why I wanted to be there... b/c I want to know what's going on?? I'm not signing the IEP's/IPRC's without a meeting. I wrote a HUGE email to my VP last week, since we were having trouble chatting with little boys underfoot during the Meet the Teacher on Monday.

They know my wishes well enough and that I've worked with them to know (a) I expect my children to be taught - IMO the little one too can be taught and has proven he is learning and I expect more - and (b) "my poor little boy has issues...." isn't going to come from me. As I told her on Thurs... there's the bench... lying he can sit there for 5min. He'd (my Gr 3) lied to them about being pushed, I was there to bring clean clothes from him falling in a puddle. Society has rules and he needs to learn them (per Dr. T. Grandin - I saw her May 2007 - excellent).

So we get along pretty good. My FSW isn't certain either but she thinks it has a lot to do with those with high behavioural problems and setting up less busy/less sensory overwhelming classrooms.

I'm currently reading "Teaching litteracy to students with significant disabilities", I got it through ILLO from Queens. I keep looking for a teaching manual to add to my collection. Something above the early "going through the wall" (more than Floortime, Miller or Lovas) as I call it. Something to help learn to teach the little one. Eldest... is doing AMAZING!!

S.

Shawn said...

Hi Ian. Long time, no comment ;^)

I have not been reading many blogs but I stumbled upon your 'dialog' at Autism Vox a few weeks ago. I see the debate (I mean dialog) has carried over here. As usual, I think you're on the right track.

I certainly have some concern with the public schools (ie, the government) teaching morality, standards for appropriate behavior, tolerance, acceptance, etc. However, I'd have far more concern if they didn't teach these things.

It's better to start somewhere than to pretend that these topics aren't relevant in the school setting. As parents, we always have the option (I'd say responsibility) to teach our children where our personal views differ from those taught in school.

kyra said...

i love this, ian. i couldn't agree with you more.

and i also love that bear is in such a wonderful school. it seems to me that they are doing much more than paying lip service to acceptance, inclusion, respect for and the EDUCATION of all the students there. perhaps fluffy and i ought to defect and move next door?

qualityg says said...

Ian,

Great topic for discussion and learning. Thank you for providing this service.

I'm a special education instructional aide across the border (Metro Detroit).

I have been documenting my experiences in both the elementary and high scholl levels supporting students with Autism. Your blog (and your readers)always gives me reason for thoughts which turn into application

Sometimes I feel I'm up against an educational brick wall, but then I remember the Berlin Wall finally came down with perserverance and knowledge.

Thank again,

Greg

Artemisia said...

I'm very late to the game - but I have a fifteen year old and have found that the culture of inclusion and tolerance in my son's school has been integral to his program and success.

I agree that schools have a place in teaching values important to citizenship. But from where I sit, the argument doesn't even need to be made.

If you are sitting on the bench that believes the job of the schools is to maximize learning and nothing more, you still must acknowledge the responsibility of the schools to create an environment that is conducive to learning - that is, one where children feel safe from bullying and teasing, as well as physical violence.

Is a child who is bullied, targeted, excluded going to learn at an optimum level? Are other children who watch bullying and fear they may be next going to learn at an optimum level? Are we even doing the bullies and would-be bullies any serive by allowing this behavior? Are we preparing people adequately for the workplace in this environment?

Of course not.

The easiest argument is that a little effort toward creating and maintaining an accepting, supportive school community fully supports the goal of maximum learning, and is, in fact, an integral component of it.

Great blog - I'm a little nervous that your last post is six weeks old. Hope all is going well for the Bear and her family.

Ian Parker said...

Hi Shawn, Kyra, Greg (qualityg) and Artemisia,

Thanks all for stopping by and for the nice comments (replies the late Ian - as in tardy, not in the other sense of the word).

Greg, it's nice to hear that the blog and the comments (I think that I have some good commenters) have made some sort of contribution or difference somewhere. Thank you for that.

Artemisia, I love your comment, which sums the subject up quite nicely. Thank you.