Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Special education teacher charged with intentional cruelty

Kristina Chew over at Autism.change.org has a post by that title about an incident at a school in Fairfield, Conneticut, in which a 6-year-old girl with autism was asked by her special education teacher to remove her shirt in an effort to distract her from "fixating" on her striped shirt and stratching herself. As reported in the January 25th Connecticut Post, the girl then "sat in the classroom naked from the waist up" for about 15 minutes, after which a paraprofessional told the principal what was going on. Kristina's post in full is here. Here is an excerpt:

The Connecticut Post article focuses on the teacher's removing the "source of distraction"---the girl's shirt---and noted that this is an "an accepted method of handling a child with autism." Sara Reed, the executive director of the Autism Society of Connecticut, and Karen Cubbellotti, director of children's services at the Kennedy Center, are both interviewed; both note that removing an object that a child is fixating or distracted by is (in the words of Reed) a "'technique that is often used in dealing with fixations.'" Both women emphasized, though, that each autistic child is different and needs different teaching methods and approaches, and suggest that, while a certain technique might be effective with one child, it might not be with another.

That's certainly true and yet, it just seems a little puzzling that the child was in a public school classroom without a shirt on for 15 minutes and, indeed, "naked." Perhaps she could have been given another shirt to wear? It's noted that Valerlay has been a special education teacher for 30 years and has a master's degree in special education, but was there anyone else on hand---a behavioral therapist, perhaps----to consult with about what to do?