All kinds of brains invited.

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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.

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Comments on: "Gage: A Kid Worth Educating, Even Though He Is Autistic" (32)

  1. Angel Giarraffa said:

    Hi, I don’t know if you remember me or my daughter but your older son Griffin was in preschool classes with my daughter Jennette a long time ago. I remember your boys and your precious little girl. It’s been a very long time since we’ve seen you all. I’m so sorry that you are going through this. I don’t know what school you have them at or if this is a state wide issue but a friend of mine has a son that is now in the 2nd grade and when he was in kindergarten he was there for 3 hours as it was half day (they were not able to pay for full day kinder) and he is still at the same school going full day like the rest of the kids do but in the autism programs. Currently he goes to John C. Bass but also attended Hummel. I dont know what part of town you guys are in these days but I just wanted to pass this info along to you to see if its possible for him to go there or at least bring up the fact that children with autism needs are getting their needs met at these schools so why not his? Anyways, other then this issue, I hope all is well. I hear that Griffin is doing amazing in school as we still see Ms. Joyce with my youngest in the mommy and me classes. Anyways. take care.

    • Thanks! Griffin is doing amazing in school. He is a quirky kid, but all of the kids at his school understand him and accept him. This is one of the big reasons we want to stay where we are. Gage shouldn’t have to go to a different school than his brother. Griffin shouldn’t have to start over at a new school because the district won’t accommodate people with autism at our home school. Thanks for the support! Ms Joyce is an awesome teacher. Our Gibson is in her preschool now.

      • Angel Giarraffa said:

        That’s totally understandable. Maybe just by mentioning these schools and their programs will stir the pot a little and maybe his school will get with the program. I’ll be praying for justice for Gage. He deserves it. No child left behind is a moto this state has and they need to step up and stand behind it. If there is anything we can help with please feel free to contact me. We wanna help you win this battle.Good luck and best wishes to you all.

  2. My friends, I am truly heartbroken to see that Gage has to face such a hard battle at his young age. He is however, so very blessed to have the wonderful parents and siblings that he does. Because you will fight for him and with him, and that is everything. Thank you for being his voice, his champions.

    If ever I can do anything for you and with you in this, please don’t hesitate to say so. In the mean time, I’ll be sharing your page and story.
    Much love!!!
    Jodi

  3. You are such a strong voice for Gage and many other children who are being denied their rights. I will share this page as much as I can. We can’t just sit by and let this happen to make things happen. I know we’re far but if ever there is anything we can do, please know you can count on us. Sending lots of love and strength you way! – Angela

    • Thank you! Disability rights are moving like cold molasses right now. We are doing our best to heat things up. Thanks for helping us.

  4. Although I live in Canada I’ll gladly share your message and Gage’s story. I wish there was more I could do, so I too will continue to share this with hopes that by reaching all edges of our world you’ll get the support you need to make the changes so your son, and others out there, can receive the quality education every child deserves, no matter where they live in our world. Peace & strength always, Paula

  5. Hi, we too have an autistic child and we have chosen to put him into a private school. In our struggle to obtain services for him we have educated ourselves a great deal on the IDEA act. According to this, what your school district is doing is completely illegal at worst and contrary to the very strong preference for ‘least restrictive environment’ at best! You as parents should have a VERY strong say on where your child is placed and how he is educated. The schools in Nevada bend over backwards to accommodate for LEP (limited English proficiency) students, even requiring teachers to take multiple courses in it before graduating, so I’m not understanding why they don’t want to scaffold instruction for a special needs kid. The other question is, are all of the other special needs kids in this class, or is it ONLY autistics? With Autism as a spectrum disorder, are they really saying that all Autistics have the same level of need to be in the same classroom? Where are all of the kids with Cerebral Palsy? Where are the kids with learning disabilities, dyslexia? You see, it’s ultra discrimanatory and NOT based on educational level but on disability. Here is a link to get you started http://nichcy.org/schoolage/effective-practices/gened links directly to an explanation of special ed students and access to the general ed curriculum. This one explains the entire IDEA act http://www.understandingspecialeducation.com/special-education-law.html I hope these help you! Chris

  6. Rhonda Parsley said:

    I am disgusted that you have to do this for your son to get the education he deserves. Wow. This makes my blood boil. I do not have a child on the spectrum, but both of my sons had other issues. I know that it was a constant battle to get them the services or modifications they deserved. Both have graduated. One has 3 years of college and the other will graduate with his first degree toward his goal of becoming a doctor. Stick with this! I am a former teacher and see so many legal violations. If you have not contacted the ACLU, I encourage you to do so. There are other groups that might be able to help you. Right now, I can’t come up with the names, but if I do, I will post them for you. Fight his IEP. You, as a member of his ARD committee have a strong say so in his education. Good luck!

  7. Joshua Perry said:

    It’s your son’s right under federal law. Contact your representative and senators…

    http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Individuals_with_Disabilities_Education_Act

  8. Derek Shannon said:

    This is ridiculous. I support you all fully and hope that something gets done soon about this mess. In fact, I would like to help, I have sent you a facebook message to the page and look forward to your reply. It may not be much, however, I do think that all counts for something. In any case, good luck!

  9. Stephanie said:

    I am confused. The picture says “like all of the other kindergarteners in my class” yet he is not in a KINDERGARTEN class. Everyone in HIS class IS off today… not just him, correct? I understand that he as at the age that some kids are ready for kindergarten, while others are not, but the fact (as you state in your post) is that he is in a preschool class that simply doesn’t go to school today. It seems to me that it would be more beneficial to know why the school believes he should be in this class rather than to cry discrimination and demand that he be allowed to go to school when the rest of his class has the day off. Perhaps he simply isn’t ready for kindergarten this year. Many kids his age are not. As a parent of 4 children (including one with autism) I know first hand that kids do not necessarily develop emotionally at the same rate and therefore are not always ready at the same age to have the self discipline needed to adapt to all that kindergarten brings into their life.

    • He is in K sometimes with a class full of typicals, and an autism class sometimes with preschoolers. There is no plan to accommodate kids Gage’s age when the preschool class has a day off. Why does every other 5 year old at this school get to go for at least half a day of school, but not Gage? We are asking for him to have equal school time as his kinder peers. Does that make sense? Our lawyers think it does.

      • This may sound like a strange question, but on the days he is in kindergarten classes, is it all day, or part of the day? As I recall, most kinder class (reading, spelling, math) was done in about an hour, maybe a bit more. There was a lot of playing and story time in between and recess also lunch and sometimes a stricter schedule than special children need. I think you should be asking them when they believe he can enter a mainstream class room, how long each day is truly allotted for each day of true learning and lessons, and if u can shadow for a day in the actual kinder class for a day. Then ask if you can either have a typical week of Gage’s class video taped, or if you can shadow him for a typical kinder day and a special program day. You might be surprised at how much of it may be social, as autists are often far more intelligent than their peers. They learn faster but they tend to have hard times with crowds, strangers, and changes. And on a side note, your son is beautiful and unique. Don’t let them short-change him by putting him into a mainstream class where he won’t be appreciated for the amazing child he is.

  10. Sharon Wendt said:

    Hi Gail, Gage and family….Just wanted to write and wish you all the best, I am so very saddened to read about the trouble you are having. I will keep you all in my thoughts and prayers. Seems to me that this is very illegal and wrong on soooo many levels 😦

  11. beentheredonethatmom said:

    Yeah, that’s illegal. Have you contacted your state’s department of education? I mean, I support what you are trying to do, but social media doesn’t replace good old fashioned due process. I presume that you haven’t gotten a lawyer, etc. because of the expense, but the school district has to pay all your legal fees if you win. And you will.

  12. Did the school explain why he is not in the K class all day? I have never heard of a kid being moved down to a lower class even when academics are a factor. Usually in cases where a kid is behind, the child sees a reading specialist, or an ESOL teacher, or a special educator. I’m sorry you are going through this. At K, all kids need to be there a full day to get educated. Why can’t he go to the K class on the half day?

  13. Elizabeth said:

    I am confused. Is autism not covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act? This sound several kinds of illegal in the violating FEDERAL law sense. This is a public school, correct? Public schools are required by law to make accommodations for students with disabilities, and it does not sound to me like giving the child LESS education qualifies as “accommodating” him. I would get input from an attorney that specializes in disability law.

  14. The fact that he “can read and do math and do phonics” isn’t enough.

    It takes a lot more than just high scores on academic tests to function in a room with other people without being unfair to them, whether that’s a classroom or an office or a retail workplace!

    • Exactly! And he will never learn the social skills he needs to get by in the world if he is kept in a class full of other children with social deficits.

      • Yeah! There needs to be a social-skills-teaching aide with the social-deficit kids in the mainstream class, instead of a separate class for them.

  15. What is happening to your son is illegal. Your son is covered under FAPE (Free Appropriate Public Education) and IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act). While appealing to folks on Facebook and through a blog with this photograph can be viral, it isn’t helpful to the situation. You need to invest your time and energy into getting a lawyer who will stop this. Check out Autism Speaks’ resource page for your state to see a list of lawyers who will be able to help. http://www.autismspeaks.org/resource-guide/state?long_state_name=Nevada&field_resource_state_value=NV

  16. thats very shocking that this is happening. It really upsets me to know that there is a school out there with this mentality. I thought we had gotten past that already. my daughter is autistic and she was allowed to go to school just like everyone else here in canada. I hope that they come to thier senses on this issue. Your child deserves to go to school just like everyone else. I hope the self esteem in your child hasnt taken a hit as a result of this. I find it really hard to stomach the discrimination society has with disabilities. When my daughter was in kindergarten i volunteered in the school and class and had a chance to educate some of the kids on disabilities and how they are not really that much different than everyone else. they just learn the same things in a different way.

  17. social media definition said:

    Highly useful, looking ahead to visiting again.

  18. Keep up the good work Gail! Keep advocating, keep demanding inclusion, and keep being the great mom you are.

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