I know, I know…Baltimore is a mess. My heart is aching for everyone involved.
Peaceful protests weren’t getting the message across.
Violent protests won’t get the message across.
What are we to do? Why does this concern me?
It concerns me because my son used to act out when in an environment with too much stimuli.
When he was in 5th grade he was quite frustrated with something during class (this is me…not throwing anyone under the bus).
He walked out of class (which he was directed to do, if overwhelmed).
Someone approached him in the hallway, ‘amping’ up his very real frustration.
He went to the bathroom and beat on the bathroom door until it came off the hinges.
Gasp if you must. In his toddler and early childhood years I was hit and kicked more than any human being should. It was my reality. Striking back at him simply made it all that much worse. So, I became his punching bag…and when he was finished I held him and told him I love him. I simply hoped and prayed that ‘this too shall pass.’
As he matured I was able to remove many of the barriers by being proactive. As he entered late childhood I was able to stop him and talk before the frustration rose to violence.
It’s why I have a very strange understanding of Baltimore right now…when one is so overwhelmed and overcome with anger it rages to our hands, without thought. Any emotional expert would tell you it is the physiological response to anger….blood flows to our hands to strike. The physiological response to fear? Blood flows to our large muscles to run. (Read Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence for more information on that – GREAT, book…like for real, AWESOME book!)
Tucker was so frustrated with life he tore a bathroom door off its hinges at school. What did he do next?
The anger was released by striking.
So, then he went into his Special Education teacher (Read Day #226 – Saint Samantha) and told her. They talked about why it was wrong – but that his frustration was RIGHT. (This is just one example of why she was/is so amazing. She condemned his behavior, but not his feeling.). Then, they went and found the custodian. Tucker’s punishment? Helping the custodian put the door back on.
That is quality behavioral management…at least for a kiddo on the spectrum.
Regardless, he resides in a community where he was and is surrounded by love. People work at understanding him and want to know him. It’s just one of the reasons he has been able to develop more and engage in amazing coping skills.
But then I read stories like Kayleb Moon-Robinson’s…
Kayleb is an 11-year-old from Lynchburg, Virginia. At the beginning of the school year Kayleb was overwhelmed and kicked a trash bin during a melt-down (the news reports a ‘tantrum’ – please see the image below for the difference between a tantrum and a meltdown). This sounds remarkably similar to tearing off a bathroom stall door…
He was charged with disorderly conduct by a school resource officer.
Two week later Kayleb left class early. This sounds remarkably similar to Tucker being able to take ‘cool-off’ time…
That same officer forcibly took Kayleb to the Principal’s office. When Kayleb struggled to get the officer to stop touching him (hellllooo….spectrum!!!) the office slammed Kayleb down, handcuffed him, and charged him with felony assault.
On April 13, Kayleb was found guilty of both charges in juvenile court and is currently waiting his sentencing in June.
Kayleb has autism and is African-American. According to the Civil Rights Data Collection by the Department of Education, “Disproportionately high suspension/expulsion rates for students of color: Black students are suspended and expelled at a rate three times greater than white students. On average, 5% of white students are suspended, compared to 16% of black students. American Indian and Native-Alaskan students are also disproportionately suspended and expelled, representing less than 1% of the student population but 2% of out-of-school suspensions and 3% of expulsions.”
I would guess that Kayleb’s ‘form’ of autism is much like Tucker’s – it’s not obvious, he’s verbal, he seems ‘normal.’ Did the color of his skin lead to this treatment? I sure hope not…but with everything going on in our nation right now, I hate to completely discount color as a factor.
Please know that I am also not blaming the officer. The officer simply mistook Kayleb’s misbehavior as a tantrum instead of as a child who simply needed extra help. This is just one reason I advocate for EVERYONE who has contact with children to be trained/taught about the special needs that so many children have. (Read Day #61 – Community of Understanding)
All of this causes me great distress because I don’t know – I don’t know how Tucker would react to someone he doesn’t know forcibly grabbing him. Actually I do know…if his senses were heightened he would strike back, and hard. It wouldn’t matter who the person was because the emotional reaction/charge supersedes the real or perceived power of that person. He hit his mama, not because he was or is mean or naughty. He hit his mama because his emotions were so heightened he had to release the anger.
I’ve never once been afraid of him – but there are moments that I am afraid for others who may not know or understand his reaction and the power that his body possesses.
It’s just one reason I keep preaching awareness, acceptance, love, and compassion. If you feel this type of love and compassion for Kayleb’s story, please consider signing this petition to have him pardoned: https://www.change.org/p/justiceforkayleb-an-autistic-6th-grader-unfairly-convicted-of-a-felony