Let me start by saying that I have nothing but respect for parents of autistic children. Having worked with kids who are on the spectrum in the past I know it’s not an easy road.
But as a mother I have to stand up for my son.
There is a boy who attends my son’s daycare. He is autistic and his communication skills are very poor. (Obviously I know that all autistic children are different, I’m just speaking about this particular child in this particular situation.)
I know the family work closely with the daycare centre to manage him, but his behaviour is out of control. It has been suggested that he may be more suited to a school focused on special needs but his mother was adamant she wanted her son to attend this preschool.
His siblings all went there and she has a strong connection to the community. She is also trying her best to give her son the most normal upbringing possible and I can understand that.
But when he is frustrated or angry he lashes out, kicking and punching. He is aggressive and violent and takes it out on other children.
The problem is that my son is his favourite target. It’s now at the point where he will seek him out across the playground, run to him and push him over, slapping him in the face.
A few weeks ago my son came home with two giant scratches down his face. I could clearly see the gouges of this boys nails on my son’s cheek. Seeing it made me angry. It made me want to cry. Why? Why does he have to put up with this?
I feel for the mother of this boy. Her child is 'that' one and just like every other mum she is trying to do the best by her child. I know the teachers have spoken to her and I can't imagine the worry and heartache she must go through.
I have tried to be understanding and compassionate. But at the same time I'm not okay with my child being a human punching bag. My son is now constantly looking over his shoulder to see whether or not this boy will be behind him, ready to interrupt his game by kicking him in the back of the head (yep, that happened).
Every single day last week my son came home with a story about how this child hurt him. At the start of the week it was a story about recess time. The children all sat down to eat their morning tea. For whatever reason this kid got upset. He got out of his seat, walked to the other end of the table and bit my son on the shoulder. Just sank his teeth in.
How do I teach him that's okay? How do I explain to a five year old child that unfortunately, he just has to cop it because this child doesn't know any better? That's not right. Just like anyone else my son has the right to feel safe in his environment and while I try my hardest to be compassionate towards the family of this child I can't stand by and wait for him to choose another target or learn that it's not okay to hurt other people.
The way I see it, preschool years are important for teaching children how to interact with each other, how to get along and how to develop friendships. I'm stuck in an awkward position because as my son's mother I want to tell him to stand up for himself, that he doesn't have to accept being hit, kicked or punched by anyone.
Yet that's exactly what I have to do because I don't know what else I can do short of pulling him out of the centre. I don't want to do that. He had made friends, he is settled and frankly, why should we be the ones to leave when my son doesn't have a problem getting along with other people?
Perhaps this is on the daycare centre. If this child cannot get through a day without deliberately hurting another person, the centre should explain that he can no longer attend the centre.
It's my job as my son's parent to keep him safe and to educate him on his rights as a human being. I wouldn't accept turning up to my job every day to be physically abused and bullied by someone else so, why do I behave like it's okay for my son simply because this child has a diagnosis.
You can probably tell I'm angry. I'm frustrated and I'm fed up. I have spoken to the daycare about this at length and their response has been to increase supervision for this child. It's not working though, it still happens. If this child requires a minder for the entire duration of the day is supervision then reduced for the other children there? They haven't employed anyone else so I can only assume this is the case. No wonder it's still happening, there are thirty other kids to take care of.
So as the mother of the child who comes home and tells me that once again he was pinned down and hit in the face, what would you do?