Over the course of this year in Australia we have seen come to light a number of disturbing revelations of schools creating isolation and seclusion environments for autistic children which are nothing short of cages and prison cells.
The most recent case has come to light in a public funded school in Queensland. But there have been others, in the nations capital the ACT and in Victoria. It would be foolish to think that these are only extremely isolated cases.
Here is the media coverage seen so far.
Channel Nine’s A Curren Affair here
Channel Nine’s Today Show here
Autistic children are being locked in cages, they are being placed in dark rooms with no light, no ventilation and no way out.
This is a rage inducing situation. I am angry, so very angry. I am angry for the parents of these kids. I am angry even more for the kids themselves.
This is just not ok. Not in any way is it Ok.
I remember as a child being locked in my bedroom by my parents for hours on end. That was horrible and, in my view, harsh and abusive treatment. But, it did not have the added factor of no light, no ventilation, and no light.
This is cruel and inhumane treatment of children. Children are locked away and restrained by force in order to place them into the situation to begin with.
There is no question that as an autistic I face challenges with social interaction and behaviour and communication. I contend that this is largely the unwillingness my society has in accepting difference and making accommodations for that difference. But, those challenges do not negate my right to be treated with dignity respect and common humanity.
We take our autistic kids, place them in a socially dominated situation for 6-8 hours a day, in the care of inadequately trained teachers and carers. Then we wonder why there are behaviour issues to deal with.
Yes nobody said this would be easy. It just isn’t particularly easy, it can be tough, after all, behaviour is communication. And if we agree that behaviour is communication if the communication being presented is to a point that teachers feel that isolation in what is essentially a prison cell is needed, then there is something seriously wrong with the systems and social constructs in play to create the need for such communication.
There is no situation where this treatment of children is acceptable. There is no way when children should be locked away like this. I just should never ever happen.
I am so very angry about this. That my so-called democratic society can produce such terrible treatment of autistic children.
When Cecil the lion was shot, we rightly had outrage in all media forums, not least of which being social media channels. All of this was right of course. I am not complaining about this, I am however making a comparison. The lack of community outrage about these situations is disheartening.
How is it that we can raise our ire for the appalling treatment of animals yet somehow our rage is not triggered enough for a mass outcry about it to bring about change.
It’s just not good enough people.
This is never ok. What’s worse than the individual schools indulging these hate for people is the fact that the state education departments are sitting on their hands, making excuses and even defending the restraint of children. Shame on you education departments, absolute shame on you.
Of course, the problem here is yet again the presence of the pervasive negative narrative surrounding autism and autistics. Catastrophe and epidemic. The use of this language desensitises us to the fact that we are talking about real living children who have been threatened and assaulted.
The narrative must be changed from disordered and diseased to difference and diversity.
Let’s do this.
For more read: Fields of Stones: Mental Health and Mistreatment