Monday, September 21, 2009

Inclusion

I have a moral dilemma for you. Now honestly this situation is mostly out of my hands, and is being dealt with my superior, but it's still sort of troubling me. In our centre we have a kindergarten room, for our kinders, and half of them go to kindergarten in the morning and half stay in our room, then in the afternoon the half that stayed in our room go to kindergarten, you get the idea. Anyway we have one student who has been diagnosed with autism. His mother (while I'm not sure I agree with the way she handles some of his behaviours) is aware of it, and takes him to see OTs and all that necessary stuff that you do when you have a special needs child. Her son, let's call him "A" has an inclusion worker in our daycare. I spend part of my mornings in the kinders room with them. Now little A is not what I'm worried about here. We have another child in our program let's call him "D".

Now little D is not known to have any special needs, but our supervisor has wanted us to keep an eye on him for the last few weeks. He has been exhibiting some possible signs of autism. He likes to flap his hands a lot when he is excited. He tends to just stare off into space quite often and it takes him a moment or so to come back to reality when spoken to. Watching him for a while in the classroom the other day I observed him standing alone in the quiet time area, spinning in circles with his head angled toward the ceiling, tilted to the side and his eyes closed. He is by no means a developmentally slow child, he can spell just about any word you can ask, even words you wouldn't think a 5 year old could spell. But he doesn't tend to engage in play with other children, unless you lead him to another child and suggest an activity for them. Then he will engage, and interact with the other child. He loves tractors and trucks and will play with them, alone when left to his own devices.

This morning we were in the big room, we had the kinders to grade 4s all together, as we do for an hour each morning before taking the kinders to their own room. And D didn't know what to do with himself, so he was sitting at a table, alone, and he just zoned out. For a good fifteen minutes he sat there staring at nothing, and occassionally he would put his head down on his arm and just sit there like that. Until finally little A's inclusion worker (who is in charge of the large group of kinders until A arrives in the afternoon) went up to him and suggested he go play with the other children. He wandered around for a few moments, walking up to the other kids and sitting with them, asking them if he could play. He came to me a few minutes later, tears streaming down his face saying that none of the other children wanted to play with him.

There was another kinder standing by the games who looked rather lost as well with nothing to do, so I suggested they both sit down and play a game together, and I basically gave D a hug and sat them both down and gave them something to do and they were happy. So then the same coworker who does the kinders in the morning and inclusion in the afternoon said that I wasn't supposed to do that. We were supposed to be observing him to see if he would engage in play with others on his own, and apparently he has been unable to find others to play with and ends up crying until someone helps him. So I was supposed to leave him cry because our supervisor wants us to observe his behaviour. I suppose not being able to engage others in play is another sign of autism. But I don't really understand it. She has already decided that she is going to talk to his mother and ask if she has noticed certain behaviours (that he exhibits at daycare) at home.

Anyway back to my point, I was kind of upset at this suggestion. The child is brand new to the school, he doesn't know anyone but the other kindergarten kids. We had over 30 kids in the room at the time, and only 4 kinders, who were spread all over the place. Whether he has autism or not, I would expect him to be shy and feel scared and sad when told to go play with the other kids. Almost all of whom have their own little cliques and are doing their own things. And he did make an effort, he went over and tried to play with the other kids. They weren't very welcoming. And even more so if he has autism I said to inclusion worker/kinderteacher girl "Well if A has autism and your job as an inclusion worker is to help him be included and play with the other children, and they are suggesting that D has autism then why am I supposed to let him stand in the middle of the room alone, crying because no one will play with him? If he has autism won't he be entitled to an inclusion worker whose job it is to make sure he is included?"

She gave me some lame response about them needing to see if he fit the behaviour or whatever that autistic kids have with not being able to engage in group play. I responded by telling her that I didn't feel right letting him stand there crying. Here is what I don't understand. We have all seen his behaviours and can agree on the things he does, the rocking, the flapping, spinning, spacing out, etc. But we are not doctors, nor is anyone I work with qualified to make a diagnosis, and they know this as well. All we can do is point it out to his mom, and suggest she get him seen by someone who is qualified to figure out what those behaviours mean, and then we can give him whatever help he may need. So why are we intent on letting him suffer and feel left out and scared and sad just so we can observe a specific behaviour?

Now let me add that I'm not sure what exactly my supervisor's stance is on this, she wasn't there this morning when it happened, I'm only going with what inclusion worker girl told me, that we weren't supposed to intervene. I honestly don't think my supervisor is that cruel and maybe the girl just misunderstood her. One more thing should be noted about inclusion worker girl, she didn't know she was going to be an inclusion worker when she was hired. She has no special training or skills, and is actually hoping to do a different job, one she's more confident in. I don't think she is a bad person either, she just lacks training for what she's doing.

So please weigh in on this. Tell me, what do you think? Should I have let him stand there and cry? Or did I do the right thing by helping him be included? (I should specify that the kid I sat him down with was more than happy to play with him too, he had been standing around looking bored.)

6 comments:

LuckyOnce said...

As far as I'm concerned, you did the right thing. You (and the other teachers) had already "proven the point" that he needed further assessment. If that was the intent of the observation, then I think it would be cruel to continue to watch him suffer alone. If I were him, I would have wanted a teacher like you to help me out.

CLC said...

I think I would have done the same thing!

Karen said...

You did the right thing. Not only that, but if your supervisor has issues with what you did you should argue your case.

1. You and the other staff are not qualified to diagnose him.

2. You and the other staff have already identified that there is an issue that someone who is qualified to diagnose him needs to observe and address.

3. Autism (his suspected diagnosis) is a spectrum, rather than a simple set of symptoms. As such, the symptoms you need to be looking for are not as simple as, "fails to initiate play with other children." Also important to observe is, "fails or succeeds in socializing with other children when an adult intervenes."

4. He may not have Autism. He may have nothing. He may have something else. All you know right now is that he needs to be examined. So until you have a diagnosis, the care you give him should be the same care every other student receives.

5. It's illegal (or at least it is in the U.S.) to discriminate against him based on his suspected Autism. And changing how you treat him is discriminating against him.

And finally, 6. just as LuckyOnce said, it would be cruel to leave him to suffer.

Amy said...

I would have done the same thing. I'm appalled that your superior would want you to just let the child cry. Way to serve the needs of the kid.

Stacie said...

I also agree that you did the right thing. I like what Karen said and how she said it.

Did you end up talking to your supervisor about the situation?

Trish said...

I absolutely think you did the right thing. If it were my child, I absolutely would be LIVID if I'd found out that the group was basically using my child as a guinea pig, trying to see how he'd react to something instead of actually managing and caring for him.