Today, we continue the reblogging series of my my series on Why Schools Aren’t Right for the Neurodivergent. I wrote this over three years ago. Pre-Covid. In the past few months, we have seen an upsurge of home education. During those months of school-at-home, many parents noticed something miraculous.
Their little humans were happier, calmer, and learning more.
This has prompted many to reconsider the value of school in their family’s lives. Unfortunately, most of those are still in that school-at-home mindset of curriculum, schedules, milestones, and testing. It is my hope that many will over time put in the effort to deschool themselves.
This is especially important for our neurodivergent young people. Because speaking plainly, if school didn’t work for them, then school at home probably won’t either.
When we’re done with this series, I’ll talk more about unschooling, deschooling, and self-directed learning. But at least getting them out of the school environment is the first step…
Yesterday, I came out of the closet. I stopped watering down my message. I quit adding ‘a spoonful of sugar to make the medicine go down’ for parents of #ActuallyAutistic and wonderfully #Neurodivergent little humans. I finally told it like it is…
Schools are NO place for our little humans!
Granted I believe that is true for ALL children. But I believe that it is vital and essential for all parents of #neurodivergent young people if they want…
- Give them the best chance at achieving their full potential
- Foster healthy relationships
- And build good self-esteem, i.e. #HappilyAutistic adults.
Schools cannot do that. They cannot meet the needs of our unique and beautiful offspring…PHYSICALLY, EMOTIONALLY, or EDUCATIONALLY.
So Rather than just make that sweeping claim, I am going to explain each in some detail. Beginning today with…
Why Schools Are NOT a Good PHYSICAL Environment for the #Neurodivergent.
Let’s begin with the basics…
- 30 children…all the same age, but very different abilities, cultures, and interests.
- 1…perhaps 2…adults with a limited understanding of ‘special needs’…all provided by ‘experts’…almost certainly never having heard the term #Neurodivergent…let alone been trained by one.
- A room not much bigger than a family living room.
- Bright, likely florescent, lights.
- Dozens of different and sometimes unfamiliar smells.
- Noises such as those light popping, other children whispering, scuffling of feet down the hall outside, possibly traffic sounds from outside, and you are supposed to hear what the teacher says over all that?
- Being bumped, touched suddenly by others without permission.
- Expected to sit quietly for extended periods of time.
- Required to ask permission to perform the most basic bodily function (so embarrassing for some children that they go all day without using the bathroom).
- Frequent demands to make eye contact.
- No privacy for your things. Other people touching pictures you painted, your pencil, your book bag. And no right to complain when they do. Being told that you are unreasonable, ‘naughty’ for not sharing.
- And the worst of all…NO CONTROL! No guarantee that things will be the same tomorrow.
And PanKwake’s pet peeve…the dreaded SCHOOL UNIFORM!
No, seriously. She spends hours sometimes watching and commenting on school rules and dress codes on YouTube. But that is not surprising, in her one year in school, it was one of her bigger physical challenges.
It took her brilliant community nursery six months to ‘prep’ her just to keep her shoes on for school. Her miracle working key person finally succeeded by naming them Milly and Molly after the characters in one of her favorite cartoons. She told PanKwake that Milly and Molly would miss her and feel she did not like them if she took them off all the time.
And socks…forget it. I needed to buy a new pack every week because she never came out of school with hers. And the brand new teacher BLAMED a four year old and my ‘bad parenting skills’. Did you get that a FOUR year old? With undiagnosed autism. Heck, even now…we own two, maybe three pair. They are used only for trampolining. then only after a prolonged explanation of WHY that is a HEALTH & SAFETY rule.
Then there are scratchy jumpers, skirts, pants, and tights (another one she would never go for…no matter how cold it got).
No, I am sure that IF I spent more time actually putting myself in a child’s position, I could double or even triple that list. BUT I don’t think I can. I was getting overwhelmed with just that.
Yet that is exactly what we expect from our little humans. Some as young as three and a half! For hours and hours every day. For five out of seven days. Without the love and support of their primary carer.
Honestly, when you think about it…it sound cruel to any child.
But then add on top of all that…
- The inability to filter out many of those sensory inputs.
- Challenges following instructions that are more than one or two steps at a time.
- Need to question and understands rules before blindly following them.
- Receptive and/or expressive language difficulties.
- Need for support to understand peers and form healthy relationships.
Does it sound like a disaster waiting to happen to you?
And even IF…you have a great teacher who cares passionately about his/her ‘kids’…an enlightened head teacher and board…they still MUST balance as I said yesterday…
The needs of the many against the needs of the few…or the one.
On a budget no less.
And goddess knows, I understand just how impossible it can be to give PanKwake what she needs on one of those…Impossible!
Hard truth…the money is not there, folks. It just isn’t.
Maybe it should be. But there are a lot of things that SHOULD BE.
Again, even with enlightened schools, ones with impressive and expensive sensory rooms and calming pools, those resources are too often used inappropriately as rewards or even punishments. At the convenience of the school staff. NOT at the discretion of the little human. On the rare instance when the child is free to ‘escape’ on her terms, too often they are coaxed out or encouraged to participate.
BUT please don’t take my word for it…TALK to your little human. More importantly…LISTEN to what they have to say. And if verbal communication is too challenging…ask to draw a picture? Or watch for cues? Or just spend some serious time considering the challenges that schools’ physical environment present to the #Neurodivergent.