Great love develops patiently within what lost humanity has sorted as so much impossibility. By God’s grace, someone discovered your ability to communicate by typing. Now you want to be known within the family of talkers as able, but the school regards you as a troublemaker to be placated or resisted outright until the age of majority is reached. Gnawing at you is the awareness that your life is passing by without an education. What waits securely for you is education if you can only get a chance. Autism will remain. Your support need is greater when they educate you in classes. You keep hoping someone inspirationally high up is willing to do their job. When others look to support you, your school ignores this extraordinarily generous offer. Really, knowing others in this same boat is useful. You forget what is at stake.
Your new friend Andrew Simmons is a bright, wiry, open in every expression 16 year old. He types to you that until two years ago, everyone, even his loving parents, thought he was mentally incompetent. Andrew types about applying for grade level education and support, “When my middle school teacher learned that I found my voice but didn’t believe me, she disregarded my voice hoping I would go back to my former self. But it meant being bullied by the hope of living life like a fool. Weren’t they listening to me??????” (Simmons) You remember that his words echo those of Frederick Douglass, the famous escaped African American slave who became an advocate of freedom for all:
Once awakened by the silver trump of knowledge, my spirit was roused to eternal wakefulness. Liberty! The inestimable birthright of every man, had, for me, converted every object into an asserter of this great right …. She aimed to keep me ignorant; and I resolved to know, although knowledge only increased my discontent. My feelings….they sprung from the consideration of my being a slave at all…I had been cheated …. (E)very increase of knowledge …added something to the almost intolerable burden of the thought- ‘I am a slave for life.’ To my bondage, I saw no end…. I have often wished myself a beast,…- anything, rather than a slave. I was wretched and gloomy, beyond my ability to describe (Douglass).
These quotes actually fit the description of all of the typers you are meeting. Yet quiet love is always with you, mixed with fun and thoughts “in hills and valleys” as Andrew types (Simmons). Megan types that life skills
“sucks” all the time (Lueking). You frequently notice your mischievous friends like Brock legitimately lording left feces abundantly in pants to get out of a task, and examples of personal isolation and abandonment such as Josh, sadly in a cold corner of the white, gray spartan hallmark dreariness set within the autism-safe jail as antiseptic pillars of school discrimination. Autism’s victims are your friends. You and I, who now have a voice, are still fighting politely for that voice to be heard in school with our friends. Does anyone credible own easy inspiration really within walls of the school? Perhaps we must quietly witness as African Americans did on the slave block only a short instant of history ago? Each and every day, like Frederick Douglass, you feel cheated and diminished.
Tides of so much suffering still hurt all of us even today. Really, in the eyes and makeup of our friends, patient resignation oozes from their lips and fingertips. Government of the administrators, for the administrators, leaves no room for these friends of ours to learn of life within the community of others. The reality within the systems’ ossified understanding is to delay. Even if our parents sue and win, only the system can implement our victory. Administrators realize they are stupid businesspersons to give the nonverbal autistic an education. With 270,000 students in the schools, it would open the doors for too many. Someone might have to work to educate instead of run a jail.
There is our friend Joe Kelly. Joe is softly docile without and fully aware, with a roundish, youthful face that hides his 21 years. Kindness is something he exudes although you would never have him responsible for parking your car. When Joe slides his hands across the keyboard of his Ipad 3, you notice that left and right hand move in sync as he types of deep interest in programming and computers and the lost potential of his life. Going on four years soon, loving Joe can’t get a single class with normal students in Anderson schools, even though he taught himself to read when he was 3 years old. Joe types, “It’s easy for me to hear everything while far from a sound source. I am really good at patterns and math. I have a perfect mind for understanding knowledge…. I’ve been in life skills all my life. It doesn’t seem like someone should move blocks for that long” (Kelly). As he mentions his desire for education, what stands out appreciatively is his commitment not to let injustice instill bitterness in what he thinks or says through the keyboard.
What life should a twenty-one year old have been entitled to from his school? Every day you are at school, Joe returns to the little wooden blocks he is assigned, knowing of his ability. We are better to focus on what Joe can teach us about love and forgiveness in the face of ignorance.
Richard learned to communicate at age 17 only a short time ago. He goes to my old school for life skills. He has always been in life skills and types, “It is like the worst nightmare ever.” His dream is to “go to college for holistic medicine to help people like me” and he contrasts “doing nothing everyday but just silly things “ while he yearns to become a healer and let people know that nonverbals with autism are “darn smart” (Nguyen). Now Richard bundles his hopes into a request, instantly and lovingly expecting that the school will quickly be thrilled about his hidden intelligence and passion for learning.
When that request was made by me five years ago, the same people who would approve Richard’s chance to be educated and study medicine denied me, piercing the secrets of tears within autism’s quiet grip. Despite wistful whispers from my mind to please obey, I wept all summer. This is Carmel. In institutions like poor Richard’s and mine, they are unmotivated by our potential for tears, the cost for us of quiet ownership altogether of our lives. Their decisions are wakes and funerals for us. Quite the opposite for them. We are each the birth of a new
$300,000 cash stream at $20,000 per year for 15 years to age twenty-two.
What I hope for Richard is a converted administration leaping at the chance to correct the wrong lastingly done to me by lies, deceit, and theft of my trust, wasting the short time left for learning enough to get a Core 40 diploma. I was 17 when I was forced to choose between staying or getting an education. Richard was in Carmel schools most of his years. They didn’t do justice to him or anyone I know by discovering any voices. The last I heard was of another girl, age 18, not being supported in her delicate requests, loyally placed, for quiet training for school aides with placement in normal classes. A friend of a friend interviewed me for a newspaper piece about her abilities to communicate by typing. I was told that Carmel’s school administration suppressed the article. Megan declares, “I think they are all idiots and have no idea what they are doing” (Lueking). I disagree with my friend. They cancelled a Carmel High School Yearbook article I had written about freedom through typing just as it was going to press in May 2011. We need to see that they are wise like foxes, but without hearts. They are arrogant, so filled with what they know that they cannot learn, mean beneath a pleasant but authoritarian veneer, and seem willing to do whatever they can to deceive and mislead parents in schools like this. Autism comes on wasting individual kept-always-secret gates and tags related to our genomes. We are not sure what unleashes this tsunami of lasting dysfunction. What sincere nonverbal students within our school systems, sorry, scared and tired, do know is that, whatever happens to their bodies, waste of their minds within the body has not occurred. The secret schools keep from parents is that they are legally stealing the student’s potential set aside by the U.S. Constitution in Brown v Board of Education (Brown v. Board). This wicked systematic dashing of student self determination sadly destroys an entire population’s futures by false diagnoses of incompetence to learn.
How does this happen to citizens of the United States? The 14th Amendment to the Constitution provides that no government may “deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” In Brown v. Board of Education, the African American’s attorney Thurgood Marshall argued in 1954 that:
- Inclusion gives children a better chance of living in democracy with the pressures of differences;
- “Education” is the entire process of developing and training the student’s mental, physical and moral powers; and
- ‘Separate but equal’ put the children’s futures at risk (Marshall).
In response to this, the Supreme Court concluded that education is a “fundamental liberty interest” and:
- (w)here a State has undertaken to provide an opportunity for an education in its public schools, such an opportunity is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms….
- Segregation of children in public schools solely on the basis of race deprives children of the minority group of equal educational opportunities, even though the physical facilities and other “tangible” factors may be equal, and…
- “The “separate but equal” doctrine adopted in Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 , has no place in the field of public education.
The Court noted that education is:
required in the performance of our most basic public responsibilities,
the very foundation of good citizenship, and
- a principal instrument in awakening the child to cultural values, in preparing him for later professional training, and in helping him to adjust normally to his environment.
Reasoning that “it is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education”, and rejecting the racist arguments that African American children are too ignorant and unable to learn, cannot compete with whites, and will weaken the entire educational system of the country, the Court declared:
Segregation … has a detrimental effect. The impact is greater when it has the sanction of the law… Segregation with the sanction of law, therefore, has a tendency to [retard] the educational and mental development of … children and to deprive them of some of the benefits they would receive in a(n) … integrated school system. (emphasis added)
(Brown v. Board).
The Court’s stand that education is a “fundamental liberty interest” and that separate educational facilities are inherently unequal naturally leads to the conclusion that for schools to impose a presumption of incompetence on any group is to sanction the incompetence under the law. Only when the state can show a “compelling interest” to deny this fundamental interest is it allowed to provide “the least restrictive alternative” (Rizzo).