I blink and in the nanosecond that my eyelids close, I see a small boy that could have been mine with bruises down the length of his body. By the time my eyes open again, the image has faded but the sadness has not.
I change gears at the stoplight and as the engine revs I hear the screams of the child who is locked in a dark room and not allowed to come out. My car moves on but my stomach is like a cauldron with acid anger bubbling and hissing.
I sleep next to my son and as we drift off my body tenses momentarily when I see a small girl cowering as she is told she is naughty and broken and useless. I dream of a twisted dystopian future where our children are locked back in institutions and left for so long that their terror and grief are silenced.
I wake and it isn’t the future I dreamt of. It’s the present and none of these horrors occurred in some family somewhere hidden from public view. They happen right in front of our eyes, everyday. In school.
In ‘posh’ private schools and ‘disadvantaged’ public schools. In ‘special’ schools and private child care centres. In the school around the corner from you. I know this because I have read the cases and heard from parents whose children enter a gauntlet every day they get dropped off at the school gate.
Autistic children are not safe in Australian schools.
They are not safe because they are not respected or understood.
They are not safe because they are seen as wicked problems too hard to solve.
They are not safe because the education system views autism as a twisted, terrible trauma that has a stink about it that can’t be cleaned up.
The stories I’ve heard and the pictures I’ve seen have bitten at me and just as soon as I have bandaged up a raw piece, another wound is opened.
There is a horror story on slow repeat in our schools that has always been there and is not looking like stopping any time soon.
The media prints the horror stories and voices are heard calling for change and reports are produced and schools are sued and nothing much has changed yet.
If parents had been found keeping their children in cages, they would most likely be facing losing their children for a time and possibly criminal charges. If schools are found doing the same, there is outrage, for a time, and then it dies down and people move on mumbling about the ‘poor teachers’.
Some of our children survive in school by bunkering down and learning how to avoid any real contact with anyone, collecting suffering that will haunt them for the rest of their lives.
Some of our children will not be tamed or toned down no matter how much you force your behaviour plans on them, use martial arts pressure points to pin them down or humiliate them until they carry a lifetime of PTSD before they even know what is stands for.
Autistic adults have open wounds that do not heal while autistic children are suffering at the hands of the education system. We are bitten. We will fight to protect our children, and your children, from the harms that are happening to them everyday in school.
What starts with star charts ends with cages for our children.
If your child with a disability has experienced neglect, bullying, mistreatment, assault, restraint or detainment in an Australian school in the last 5 years, please visit http://autisticfamilycollective.org.au/schoolrights/ and fill in the online survey. Autistic Family Collective are partnering with several other organisations in the Disability sector to gather cases of human rights abuses of children with a disability in schools to raise with the United Nations. Survey closes 20 June, 2016.