Middle school

Summer Is Coming

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Summer is coming.  At the very least a summer attitude has been around for a while now: shorts, flip flops, and warm weather.  By now many families on the Spectrum have had their annual CSE meetings to plan for the summer and next year. A funny thing happened; we had our meeting for Mike at our district’s Special Ed office.  For the last few previous years when Mike was attending Nassau BOCES Rosemary Kennedy School, we went there and participated via phone conference at a table where his teachers and service providers sat.  Those teachers and providers were all very much on the ball; having sent us copies of new goals and objectives to review before the meeting actually took place.  Smooth as silk.

This year, not so much.  Maybe it was the break in routines for both us and the district CSE, who hadn’t physically seen us in for at least 3 years.  Everything was going really well as the teachers and service providers from Island Trees Memorial Middle School reviewed Mike’s progress this year, his first at the school.  The district’s psychology chairman who was running our meeting suddenly realized that Mike was 14 this year, and started the discussion about pre-pre-planning his transition from middle school to high school and (presumably) beyond.  He spoke glowingly about how much progress Mike had made both behaviorally and academically, and that maybe (!) Mike would make that transition back into district, since the district Special Ed programs and curricula had itself grown and expanded.

Blah, blah, blah…

As my wife and I looked at each other, we knew we had the same thought process simultaneously: no effing way in hell is Mike ever, ever, ever going back to district schools.  Ever.  He was what we termed their ‘guinea pig’ many years before as the district essentially began their fledgling, rudderless, eternally-incompetent start to their Special Education program; subjecting him to different, often divergent methodologies of teaching and addressing autistic behavior.

Ummm, no. Hell no.

Well, this started an avalanche of unforseen and unintended discussion, so much so that it wasn’t until we got back home that we realized that we were derailed, and did not go over any of next year’s goals and objectives.  The good thing was that we never signed any documents at the end of the meeting indicating that we agreed with all that was discussed during the CSE.  As we learned many years ago, never sign anything at a CSE other than an attendance sheet.  As embarrassing as it was for 2 parents who consider themselves relatively ‘on top of things’ to forget to review our son’s goals, it was not an irrevocable faux pas.

My wife promptly called the district CSE, informed them of the oversight, and was able to have a copy of next year’s goals mailed to us for review.  After the goals came in the mail, she went over each of the goals with the parent trainer who visits almost weekly, and was able to break down the goals, or tweak them.  She scheduled a telephone conference with Island Trees’ teachers and providers and went through what changes we (she) wanted implemented in the goals.  She then told them to make the changes or we would unfortunately need to schedule another CSE meeting before this school year ends.

Did I mention that my wife rocks? She is ‘Autism Warrior Mom’ personified.  

Summer is coming.  That means day camp, swimming, ice cream and all that good stuff.  I hope all your kids’ goals and objectives have been addressed to your satisfaction, so that you can enjoy summer with them.


A Voice For An Autistic Generation

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Sometimes a picture can be worth a thousand followers too.

That’s what happened to Henry Frost after he posted a photo to Facebook.

The photo shows 13-year-old Frost sitting on the steps outside a downtown Tampa building with his service dog Denzel. Not shown are the thousands of Republicans who had gathered nearby for the week-long Republican National Convention.

Frost holds a sign. It reads:

“The Civil Rights Act of 1964 granted equal rights to all people. I am a person. I want these rights.”

Frost has autism and a list of related physical problems which have so far eluded a tidy diagnosis. He communicates using an iPad app that speaks what he types.

The right Frost is seeking is the ability to attend Wilson Middle School in his South Tampa neighborhood. The Hillsborough County school district has told Frost they believe he is better off at a specialized program at Coleman Middle School, his family says.

Frost’s photo – and his cause – has gone viral since the photo was posted at the end of August. Thousands have given it an electronic thumbs-up on his I Stand WITH Henry Facebook page. And more than 2,100 have signed an online petition asking Hillsborough schools to let Frost attend Wilson Middle.

Disabilities and special education experts say it’s a common dispute: A family and a school district disagree about what school is best for the student.

School officials say they work hard to give thousands of students with disabilities and their parents what they want. But sometimes parents don’t get the final decision and school officials do.

While he tries to win admission to Wilson, Frost is taking course at home online. His family worries he is falling behind his classmates. Frost says he just wants to prove himself in a general education classroom.

“Please see me as a person like you,” he types, triggering the mechanical voice of his iPad. “I would like the chance to try.”

Knocked Off His Path

Just over a year ago the idea of Frost leading a protest was unthinkable, his mother, Lauri Hunt, and stepfather Russ Hunt said.

Frost was attending a charter school which specializes in special education. His family took educators at their word that Frost was getting everything he needed in school.

He was interested in cars and asked his parents for a ride in a red Camaro for his birthday.

And then Frost saw a documentary called “Wretches and Jabberers” last spring.

The movie follows autism activists Larry Bissonnette and Tracy Thresher as they travel the globe talking to reporters and others about autism. Often, they answer reporter questions by typing answers into a device which speaks the words.

It was the first time Frost had seen people with autism describing life with the disorder in their own words.

Something clicked in Henry, his family said.

“It knocked him off his path,” Russ Hunt said of the movie’s effect on Frost wanting to switch schools. “From that point on that was how it built.”

Bissonnette and Thresher visited Tampa and met with Henry soon after.

Communicating through an iPad is both painstaking and efficient.

Frost often gets stuck trying to answer questions, constantly referring to friends or past events.

That’s when the movie serves as a reference point in Frost’s life.

Frost uses an 18-second piece of the movie’s soundtrack to focus himself when his mind gets caught in one of the repetitive loops typical of autism. He uses the soundtrack as a shorthand way to describe what he’s thinking or feeling.

When Frost gets overwhelmed by a reporter’s interview questions, he regroups in another room – just as a character does in “Wretches and Jabberers.”

Lauri Hunt has to remind Frost to return to his “thinking spot” if she sees him start to hover while typing. She might put her hand on his elbow or shoulder to help him focus. Sometimes he brushes her away.

But Frost can also quickly sift through hundreds of saved phrases and find what he needs. That includes the ability to quickly explain his medical history to paramedics or doctors.

Lauri Hunt said the way Frost views himself has changed after seeing the movie. For the first time Frost started telling people what he wanted.

“In the last year he’s like ‘I,’ ‘I,’ ‘I,’” Lauri Hunt said.

And that means seeking rights for the disabled, including protesting in downtown Tampa during the RNC.

“He started with ‘I would like these rights,” Lauri Hunt said. “Then it was ‘I want these rights.’ And now it’s ‘I have these rights.’”

“Sometimes It’s Just A Disagreement”

Despite what Frost and his family want, special education experts say parents don’t always get to choose. That’s because when a labyrinth of federal and state laws meet local practice, sometimes the two sides can’t agree.

Federal law says that students with disabilities have a right to a free and appropriate education in the least restrictive environment. Experts say that puts a preference on educating students with disabilities in general education classrooms.

Florida law has a similar preference, stating students can only be put into special classrooms if a school cannot accommodate the disability with aids and services in a general classroom.

But sometimes educators and parents disagree about what should be in a student’s education plan and where he or she should attend school.

Privacy laws forbid school districts from discussing individual student cases. Hillsborough County schools said they follow the law and declined to speak about Frost’s request.

Speaking generally, school board chairman Candy Olson said disagreements between the district and parents are rare.

Last year the district designed special education plans for 25,000 students, she said. The parents of just seven students took their dispute to a judge.

Olson said it’s difficult to tell a parent they can’t send their child to the school of their choice, but the district only does so when they believe the student would be better-served or safer at a different school.

“It’s heartbreaking and it makes you angry,” she said. “But there are laws and they’re meant to protect everybody.

Disabilities advocates say Florida school districts have different views on including students with disabilities in general education classrooms.

Ann Siegel is an attorney with Disability Rights Florida. The group handles about 300 specials education disputes each year, including Frost’s.

A Florida Department of Education memo says it’s up to a school district to prove why a student shouldn’t attend a general education classroom.

But Siegel says districts often require that parents prove their child can handle the work. School districts know the process and the law better. Parents can find it difficult to oppose their team of experts.

Parents find it hard to accept the decision isn’t always theirs, Siegel said. They don’t always like the results when they win and their child is placed in a general education classroom.

“There’s very little that I find is black and white in special education,” she said. “Even when you win, you’ve lost time. And you’ve tainted a relationship with the school district.”

Hillsborough County school board member Olson said she understand how it looks when a school district says no to mom. But she says they have to follow the law and the student’s education plan.

School districts can’t afford to hire specialists for every school – it just isn’t an efficient use of tax money, she said. But the school district provides for every student.

“We see miracles with children with special needs,” Olson said. “It’s not for lack of trying; it’s not for lack of caring. But sometimes it’s just a disagreement.”

“Killingly Hard”

“I think yes. I am kind and treat people with respect. That is a role model.”–HENRY FROST

But while the school district disagrees, Frost is taking classes at home. Lauri Hunt believes he is falling further behind while the family tries to prove he can handle life and work at Wilson.

She worries how other will react to Frost’s public protest.

“You do spend your whole life trying to protect your kids from everyone knowing so much about them,” she said. But the family said the reaction has been mostly positive.

Neighbors have rallied to support his cause. So have strangers on the Internet.

Frost finds some inspiration in the movie “Hairspray,” about Baltimore students who fight to integrate a 60’s television dance show.

“It’s killingly hard to say how I feel,” Frost said – another reference to a line in “Wretches and Jabberers.”

But does he feel like he inspires others, just as Bissonnette and Thresher did for him?

“I think yes,” he said. “I am kind and treat people with respect. That is a role model.”


It’s Still Only September

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As many of you know, Mike started in a self-contained class this year at Island Trees Memorial Middle School.  To say that we were thrilled (including Mike) is a gross understatement, but with that enthusiasm brought a lot of anxieties to the surface, some of which I posted in earlier blog entries.  Mike loves to draw and sees himself as quite an artist, and has had his artwork featured in his former school’s notecards, etc.; he often tries to draw perfect copies of pictures from his books, and often obsesses over not getting it ‘quite right’.  I don’t think he expected two of his new classmates to also have artistic talents, and he sees this as diminishing his own talents somehow; akin to being in a three-way tie, there can be no clear-cut ‘best artist’, which frustrates him to no end.  He hates to lose, even if he actually doesn’t; in the past has displayed such poor self-image for coming in second, or getting a silver medal.  Yesterday he came home from school and had a mini-meltdown of sorts as described by my wife; accompanied by a far-reaching story that involved two classmates, punctuated with terms like “I poked him”, “he told me to stop touching him”, “she helped me up off the ground” and promises that “I followed the rules”.  Surely, we were certain ‘something’ had happened in school, but no mention was made in his Communication Book.  After a first day back after a 4-day weekend, a semi-difficult day in school, and the realization that his after-school teacher (who he would rather not deal with) would be arriving soon, I would probably have a little melt-down too. 

Why am I bringing all this up? To remind parents on the Spectrum not to get lulled into a sense of contentment after a brief period of progress.  Take a breath, by all means, to get a ‘lay of the land’.  Then get back at it: contact teachers to make sure services are being provided, discuss even minor behaviors that may be occurring, try to understand this year’s new dynamic your child is in, maintain structure and continue to communicate.  These are the ways your child made progress in the past and they will be key to future success as well.  Sometimes we need to remember that preparing our children for lasting success is the mother of all marathons; not the 100 yard dash it always feels like it is.  It’s still only September.  -Ed

School Planning For Autism Spectrum Disorders in 500 Words Or Less

A child with an autistic spectrum disorder does not intuitively understand the social world. Severely affected kids may have little apparent interest in people around them. Someone with mild impairment may be quite motivated socially, but lacks the skills to initiate or maintain social exchange or play. Regardless of whether the diagnosis is autism, Asperger’s syndrome or pervasive developmental disorder (PDD)-nos, this difference in social development defines the disability.

Educational planning for children with autistic spectrum disorders is often complex and difficult to negotiate. When children have severe impairments, they often end up in specialized classrooms — and sometimes are mainstreamed too quickly. For children more able to integrate into mainstream settings, an appropriate balance between class time and services to address their special needs can be hard to define. They benefit from, and hopefully enjoy, time with mainstream peers and teachers, but they still are behind developmentally and require services.

The bottom line in educational planning, however, is this: As long as a child continues to show symptoms of an autistic spectrum disorder of any kind, he or she requires continued and targeted special services. Even children with mild social impairments, who are able to get by in mainstream classes and frequently do not act out in any way, require services. To meet a child’s long-term potential, we must define and develop a long-term plan that addresses the often subtle social and communication skills that lag behind peers.

As the school year beings, here’s an overview of educational planning (in 500 words or less):

1. Behavioral therapy is the core intervention.

For intense impairments, a self-contained classroom with an autism-specific behavioral program is the quickest way to catch a child up. With milder impairment, children still benefit from direct instruction. As long as symptoms of autism persist, children require ongoing behavioral intervention, considering both individual and group interventions, to teach core social skills. Exposure to typically developing children alone doesn’t accomplish enough. If they could instinctively learn from peers, they probably wouldn’t have autism.

2. Speech language delay is part of the autism diagnosis.

Regardless of how high-functioning children with autism appear, they have language deficits. It’s a defined part of the diagnosis. Some have profound delays in expressive skills and comprehension, but for others the delay is more subtle.

Pragmatic language refers to all the unspoken, nonverbal aspects of human communication. Pragmatic language delays are inherently part of having autism, so children require ongoing speech-language therapy. Importantly, pragmatics are impossible to quantify, so we cannot rely on test scores to define needed services. As long as social awkwardness, lack of awareness, or communication concerns persist, skillful language intervention has a role.

3. Daily repetition is needed to learn social skills.

If the absolute most important thing in the world was for your child to become a concert pianist by age 16, she would have to practice multiple hours almost every day to get there.

Similarly, for children with autistic spectrum disorders the development of social and communication skills is the absolute most important thing in the world. Their educational plan, considering what happens both in and out of school, should include daily reinforcement through a variety of services. As children catch up, or for those with very mild impairment, the intensity can be decreased.

4. Monitor the need for related services.

Occupational therapy addresses fine motor, handwriting and sensory concerns when present, all of which are common with autism. Physical therapy addresses primarily gross motor concerns. Psychoeducational testing should look for these types of impairments, with an emphasis on daily living and adaptive life skills.

5. Monitor for other academic difficulties.

Children with autism frequently have symptoms of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). They also can have learning disabilities. Obsessive, rigid thinking may affect classroom performance. On a more subtle level, pragmatic difficulties impact their ability to understand and interpret reading assignments, social studies, and other work. This means they likely will need ongoing intervention to address a broad range of educational difficulties.

6. Many children with autism need more support during unstructured time than structured time.

The social rules in a classroom are simple: Sit down. Be quiet. Raise your hand when you want to speak. On the playground, in the lunchroom, and during recess social rules are constantly in flux. A recent study suggested half of children with autism become victims of bullies, which is much more likely during unmonitored time. Planning should address this unstructured, often unsupervised time of the day.


New School Anxiety, Parent Style

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School started this week.  Like many parents on the Spectrum, anxiety reigned supreme over our household with one notable exception: Mike.  We have known since June that Mike was accepted into a mainstreamed middle school class for Special Needs kids.  We were very excited, including Mike, who has never been particularly excited about any prospect remotely associated with school.  We mentioned it fairly often over the summer to ease the typical end-of-summer/back-to-school anxiety, but found he had none.  On Tuesday morning he woke up on time; early, actually and went about his ‘morning routine’. 

My wife and I however were a different story; I don’t think either of us slept particularly well and did not enjoy losing extra sleep in the morning.  We had already decided the night before to follow the bus as we typically did whenever a new year started, you know ‘just to be sure’.  So after I got him on the bus, I inconspicuously ‘tailed’ the bus from a distance as it wound along on its route.  With a terrible downpour, it didn’t take long (2 pick ups) for the bus to lose me.  So I decided to wait at the school for it to arrive, and marked the occasion on Twitter:

  • Ed Eustaquio (@1andOnlyJustEd)
    9/4/12 7:54 AM
    Mike’s first day of school #newschoolanxiety #fingerscrossed #autism

As I spied Mike getting off his bus, I remained watchful for any signs of agitation, anxiety and withdrawal, and exhaled when I saw none.  I was actually really relieved when his teacher came out to the bus to say hello to them before the students exited the bus.  Thank goodness for good teachers!

  • Ed Eustaquio (@1andOnlyJustEd)
    9/4/12 8:11 AM
    Mike just got off the bus and is high fiving the teachers #newschoolanxiety #autism #dadstalksthebus

As many parents know, routine and transitioning are central issues for many Autistics; deviating from rituals often brings about anxiety, meltdowns, or other undesirable behavior.  So let’s look at the different things that deviated from Mike’s previous routine:

  1. Waking up 45 minutes earlier
  2. Meeting a new bus driver and attendant
  3. A new bus route
  4. A new set of peers/classmates on the bus
  5. A new school building
  6. A new teacher (whom he has only met once before) and classroom aides
  7. A new class routine
  8. Mainstreaming into art, music, gym and
  9. Lunch in the lunchroom with everyone else

Surprisingly (to me anyway), he overcame (or was able to cope with) each with remarkable poise.  After all this, when asked how his day was, he responds with a simple “Great!”  We were glad to find out he met a friend who he described as “the guy from music”, AKA Mr. Hansen. 

So, is he getting better at this? I would say so.  Are we? Not even close.  I guess we have a lot to learn.  I would like to credit our diligence and preparedness, as well as the lessons he’s learned from his teachers, counselors and social situations he’s been placed in.  Or we might just be lucky.  Who knows?

All I know is that we are thankful that he is making progress.  Not quite THERE, by any stretch of the imagination, but certainly at least a step closer. 

That brings me to today’s post, entitled “Missing Matthew” by Laura Shumaker.  It reminded me of the fragility and complicated dynamics of every family touched by Autism, and made me that much more thankful for my wife and sons, and the support we give each other.  -Ed


My son Andy skipped ahead of me with his fresh haircut and new Quiksilver T-shirt. He tumbled into a cluster of exuberant but nervous freshmen outside the high-school gym as upperclassmen clapped and chanted, music blaring.

It was orientation day our local high school.

When it was time to get to the business of filling out forms and taking pictures for student body cards, I felt a tug on my sleeve. It was the mother of one of Andy’s friends, a woman who always knew more about everything than the average person.

“I hear you sent Matthew away to school,” she said coldly.

“Yeah, it’s hard, but I think it will be good for him in the long run.”

“Well, I think it’s sad,” she said, then turned and walked away.

I raced around and paid for books and registration fees with Andy running behind me, knowing I was distressed. I kept my chin to my chest, eyes down. Only a few of my good friends could tell that something was wrong as tears stained my beet-red face and light blue T-shirt.

“I’m fine,” I lied to Andy with my best fake smile. “Go ahead and talk to your friends. I’ll meet you in the car.”

I ran to the car, the goofy plastic smile still planted on my face, fell in, and sobbed for what felt like hours. It was the first time I had cried since leaving my oldest son Matthew, who has autism, at Camphill Special School near Philadelphia, three thousand miles away from our Northern California home, two days before. Andy was right behind me and sat next to me as I wept, patting my back lightly and giving me sips from his water bottle.

“You did the right thing, Mom,” he said. “That lady wouldn’t have said that if she knew what you’ve been through.”

We had been through a lot as a family, though the last year had been particularly difficult. Matthew is what many would consider high-functioning, but his quirky and impulsive behavior that had been manageable in earlier years had amplified dangerously with the onslaught of adolescence.

There were rages, slamming doors and police visits prompted by Matthew’s knack for approaching strangers, mostly prepubescent girls and their mothers, with inappropriate questions.

How old are you? Do you think I’m nice? Can I touch your hair?

A series of disturbing close calls was topped off with a surprise letter from an attorney. Apparently, Matthew had collided with his client, a young boy, while riding his bike.

“Matthew? Were you in a bicycle accident? Was anyone hurt?”

“Probably a boy. Who told you?”

My husband and I came to the heartbreaking conclusion that Matthew was no longer safe in the community where he had grown up, and that his impulsive actions were putting others in peril. He needed more supervision, more than our family or our school district could provide.

I wasn’t prepared for the way I felt when Peter and I returned after taking Matthew to Pennsylvania. I had assumed I could enjoy the luxury of time alone at home with Matthew well taken care of and my two younger sons at school. I imagined that I’d reconnect with friends over lunch and at the gym. The strain that had aged my face would fall away, and I would look and feel rested and serene.

Instead, I felt scattered and aimless. The toll of the anxious summer had drained my energy and confidence, and my identity felt battered. I had been the Matthew expert for 15 years. I had known exactly how to hold him when he fusses as a baby, and I knew the story behind each scar and broken bone. I was the only one who knew how to calm him during an adolescent, autistic meltdown. Now, I felt stripped of my duties.

It seemed unnatural, even selfish, to fill the time Matthew’s absence granted me with luxurious activities such as seeing friends for lunch, relaxing in the garden, or even doing a load of laundry without interruption. Just as I was beginning to feel a little better, a friend called.

“Has Matthew left yet? Good! You must be so relieved! He doesn’t come home till Thanksgiving? Thank God!” she said.

Her insensitivity made me crazy angry, and after hanging up on her, I went into a housecleaning frenzy until Andy reminded me it was time to leave for freshmen orientation.

After Andy and I returned from the scene of my public breakdown, the phone was ringing again. I hoped it wasn’t my clueless friend calling back.

“Hello, Laura? This is Andrea at Camphill.” Andrea was Matthew’s housemother. I panicked.

“Is everything OK? Did something happen?” I asked.

“Oh no,” she laughed. “Things are going well here. I am really enjoying Matthew, but I have some questions about him, and I hope you can help me.”

My heart jumped. Yes! I can help! What do you need to know?

“What are his favorite foods,” she asked. “Does he like music? How do you reward him for good behavior? He has been teasing his roommate relentlessly.”

That’s a good sign. At least I know he’s feeling like himself.

“Any ideas? The rash that was on his hands seems to have cleared up since you left, and he is sleeping well. We are enjoying him so much! Andrea told me that Matthew liked to watch her son, Joe, who was eighteen, work in the greenhouse and that they got along well.”

I felt overwhelmed with joy and relief. Matthew was still far away, but he was safe, he was happy and he was appreciated.

We talked for almost a half hour, mother to mother, and I told her to call me any time. It occurred to me that I had felt I was a failure as a mother because I couldn’t fix Matthew. But now Andrea was acknowledging that Matthew was a puzzle, and that we needed each other to figure him out and help him grow.

“May I say hello to Matthew?”

“He’s right here.”

“Hi, Matthew!”

“Hi, Mom. I’m very busy right now. Joe and I are doing something very important.”

“I know. I just wanted to hear your voice,” I said, choking up. “I miss you, Matthew, and I love you so much.”

I could tell he was smiling.

“That’s nice.”



Warning: Item In The Mirror Is Closer Than You Think

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The title is a little play on that warning etched into your car’s side mirrors.  That item is a school bus and it’s coming up fast; a reminder that school is coming and with it all the gut-wrenching, anxiety-filled moments that parents dread.  First among them is ‘how is he going to handle the bus?’  For NT children, the transition from elementary to middle school can be daunting, and even more so when they transition to high school.  New schools, new teachers, new bus routes, new class schedules; but pretty much the same group of friends and acquaintances they’ve had, or known since kindergarten. 

Chronologically, Mike is in middle school.  This September he’ll be in an inclusion class in a typical middle school not in our home school district.  He has been out of district for the past three years, attending Nassau BOCES Rosemary Kennedy School; before that were largely ineffective years in 2 different Special Ed classes in our district (another story for another time).  In the three years at RKS, Mike really blossomed because they really understood him, and were able to channel his behaviors; to maximize his ability to learn.  Maximized to the point that his behaviors went away, and he showed a real aptitude for art and science, and has an expanding vocabulary; maximized to the point of exceeding the expectations of a 6:1:1 setting in a Special Ed school.

Back to the bus aspect of this post; I remember when one of my other sons came home one day on the bus from elementary school, and no one was there to meet him at the bus stop; school bus company policy kicked in and he had to stay on the bus which dropped him back off at school so that a teacher could watch him until we picked him up.  As frantic as that was, it was a safe scenario.  I cannot imagine a bus company ever losing my son with Autism.  I can’t fathom this concept, yet it probably happens far more often than is ever reported in the news, often resulting in a tragedy.  He will probably continue to be picked up and dropped off by mini-bus with a matron, a situation he’s accustomed to.  During the school year, for planned field trips and the like, he may have to ride in a regular-sized bus, with NT middle schoolers.  We all know how pleasant many middle schoolers can be.  He has ridden in a regular-sized bus before, and does so now for camp, but that is with other special needs kids.  My hope and wish is that, like in the article below, ‘the world is basically safe, and that people are generally good.”

Ah, school anxiety — it’s not just for children anymore. -Ed

Bus Loses Child With Autism On The First Week Of School

School has started in pockets of the country, and the first story of a child misplaced by a bus driver this year comes from Gwinnett County, Ga. Five-year-old Harrison Antone has autism, and when the Sugar Hill Elementary School bus dropped him at the wrong stop because his teacher put the wrong ID tag on him. 

According to the local station, WSB-TV, two teens found the boy, who was wandering around an apartment-complex parking lot, and took him to an adult. She, in turn, searched his backpack, found his mother’s number and called. 

So what is the lesson we take from this first-day-of-school tale (in addition to the obvious changes needed in the school’s bus procedure)? 

Is it that the world is not a safe place for children? 

Or that a little boy who needed help got it? 

“I called her and told her, ‘I have your son. He’s safe. He’s at my house and I’ll keep him safe until you arrive,'” his rescuer says she told his mom. 

Isn’t that the lesson — that the world is basically safe, and that people are generally good — the one that we most need to learn?