April 12, 2013. A beautiful spring day that makes us thankful to live in Nevada right now. Griffin, our 7-year-old, is at school. Gage is home. Not because he is sick. Not because he is in trouble. Because he is autistic. Every other kindergartener in Gage’s class is allowed to go to school all day today. Everyone but Gage.
We have complained about this all year. But one Friday a month, the kids in the preschool autism class, the class that they have decided Gage should be in (even though he is kindergarten age, and can read and do math and do phonics) get a day off whether they want it or not. Most of these kids in this preschool autism program are 3 and 4, so in effect, they are missing a day of preschool. Not Gage. He is 5 (6 in June). Every other child in his kindergarten class (the age appropriate class for him that he gets to be in sometimes) is allowed to be educated all day. Everyone but Gage. Because he is autistic. And that kind of makes us angry that we live in Nevada right now. One hour away in California, or in Kansas or Wisconsin or North Carolina or almost any other state, a kid like Gage would get to go to school today. Because, unlike Nevada, some states don’t discriminate against autistic kids. They think autistic kids are worth educating. They give them (gasp) equal rights. Civil rights that they are entitled to. Almost like they are 100% human.
“But…” when we have the gall to ask that Gage be equally educated (or at the very least given the same amount of time as the other K students) they say “…Gage is autistic. He is in the autism class most of the day and there is no class that day. So he doesn’t get to go. He will still get his 80 minutes of time in kindergarten that we have decided that he gets, even if you disagree.”
“But…” we say “every other kindergartener gets to go to school all day. Gage deserves to go!”
“Too bad” they say.
When I posted a complaint about this on Facebook a few months ago, one of my friends who is an aide at Gage’s school, replied that she would stay all day with him, “If I were allowed.” What a load of ruckus that comment caused. It may be the first time in history that a Facebook post was brought up at an official meeting to decide a child’s educational future. The aide and I are not Facebook friends anymore. I didn’t want anyone scrutinizing her for being friends with me. But she was right — she could have stayed with him. It would have cost the school nothing. The aides, and the autism teacher, are paid to be at school that day. It is like an in-service day for them.
Would it be a big deal for one of them to accompany Gage to class? No, it would not. But they say no. Gage doesn’t get educated today. Gage gets to go to school at 7:50 and gets kicked to the curb 80 minutes later. We say he needs to be educated. He needs the same education as the others. But he doesn’t get it. Because he is autistic.