My son, Zach, is an autistic 10 year old little boy who needs help. Zach is such a bright, happy child. He thrives on feeling needed, always wanting to help adults. He tries so hard every day to please people, and see that people are proud of him. Last night, I watched him tuck his 5 yr old brother into bed, getting him every stuffed animal his brother asked for. He doesn't like physical affection, but he still loves completely, with his whole heart. When he hurts, he won't say, holding it in, and never letting it show.
Sadly, Zach has struggled in school since he was 3 years old. Although we have done our very best to work with several agencies over the years, and tried to work with Zach’s school to address his emotional and behavioral needs, things have been getting worse and not better because the school is punishing him for his disabilities.
Zach has an Individualized Education Plan. He has been in emotional support classes since 1st grade. But the school calls my husband and me constantly because of Zach. They ask us to come to school to address his upsets and calm him down – or just so they can ask us to take him home. When the school thinks Zach is being too disruptive while they wait for us to come, it’s been doing something that is against the law: taking him from the classroom and forcing him to stay in a windowless, secluded room in the basement. It is 10’x10’. The walls are cinderblocks. There is no matt or chair. Still, the school will force Zach to sit by himself in the room. On some occasions, the school has kept him in that room for up to five hours, alone. He cannot get out. When Zach tries to get out, the school has an adult (sometimes two) hold the door closed. It also locks from the outside. Zach is now terrified of being in school, but cannot communicate his fears and needs appropriately.
Recently, Zach had a serious episode at school. We made sure he got the care he needed in an inpatient program for autistic children. He was able to come home to us right before the holidays, and it seemed like Zach’s behavior was improving. He talked about how they really understood him at the hospital. When he went back to school, though, things went right back to the way they were. His behaviors continued to escalate. He continued to say that he hated school. The school continued to not assist in helping us to teach him how to deal with his feelings.
We are asking you to please help us! We want nothing more than to have Zach in an environment where he’s understood so that he can thrive and learn. And we cannot send him back to a school that’s going to respond to his disabilities by isolating him for hours at a time in a small, bare, windowless basement room. No person – especially an autistic child – should ever be treated that way.
Please help us help Zach! The road ahead is expensive and daunting. He needs significant help from medical, therapeutic, legal, and educational professionals who will advocate for his rights and needs.
Any funds not used for these purposes will be donated to Autism research and support.