The blond-haired little boy stared back at me from a photo distributed on the w.w.w. [w.w.w. = world wide wasteoftime]. In a parody of democracy in action, Alex Barton was voted out of kindergarten for the remainder of the school day last Wednesday. His crime? Having a neurological condition called Asperger's and some associated behavioral problems. The teacher-- a Wendy Portillo-- cajoled her class into voting. And reportedly had children describe what they didn't like about young Alex. One reported adjective was "disgusting." Two kids voted to keep Alex in the classroom that day. The majority voted that he be excluded. Alex who was just returned to the class from the principal's office for his behavior spent the rest of the school day in the nurse's office. Needless to say, Alex has not been thrilled about his experience.
Although folks on both sides of the issue have resorted to name-calling, what I find even more repugnant are the public comments which support Wendy Portillo in her actions. Her excuse ran something like teaching the children about tallying. I wasn't there but I have an opinion anyways-- bovine fecal matter to that. Was the teacher lying about the whys and wherefores of her ill-advised election activity a la Survivor fashion? Nah, she was just being reckless with the truth.
Yes, I know how difficult it can be to maintain reasonable discipline and order in any rowdy bunch of human beings. Been there, done that. Yes I am intimately acquainted with the cluster of symptoms which comprise Asperger's. Of course I know how aggravating it is to herd cats.
I also know the frustration of living with atypical neurology.
I do not belong to the Autism Squeaks camp. [Autism Speaks but not for me, a curebie organization of unhappy parents]. I don't understand why forcing eye contact is such a big deal to neurotypicals, don't wish to blend in, will not give up my passions, and certainly will continue to celebrate diversity. I hate all clothing that is not cotton. I detest polyester and nylon in particular. I don't use makeup or wear high heels. I used to stare at the dust specks illuminated by the sunlight pouring through a window. I was clumsy rather than graceful and the last to be picked for any gym class team. I have been accused of staring too long, daydreaming, having obsessions with the things that are of intense interest to me, being intense or too intense or thinking too much about weird things or the wrong things, eating food in a specific order rather than varying what is on the fork from bite to bite, eating the same thing for breakfast daily, not making small talk, not caring about small talk or the lives of celebrities, being a geek or a space cadet or pedantic, not fitting in. And worse, daring to be content with my own company and my own internal focus and my own way of being.
No Child Left Behind. One Child Voted Out.
radical sapphoq says: A huge phooey to Wendy Portillo. As an adult and as a teacher, I cannot believe that she didn't have other options for dealing with a misbehaving five year old.
While I support reasonable discipline and consequences for one's actions, I abhor what happened to Alex Barton. I sincerely hope that he will find a new classroom where he is valued for who he is, a teacher who knows about the issues that people on the broad autistic spectrum face and who has a better arsenal of tools for keeping order in a classroom.
Bev over at Autism Square 8 has an excellent list of who to write to should anyone feel so inclined:
Educate yourselves if you wish to. Here is a partial incomplete list which includes two news articles from the same newspaper in Florida and some other bloggers who are blogging about this crapola:
excellent thoughts about this whole mess
the politics of exclusion
an interview with Alex Barton and his mother
two Palm Beach Post articles-- links working as of 5/28/08