How a headline prompted a memory of particularly odd event in life
There was a big debate over an incident that happened in America; I think it was New Jersey or New York. Parents of a grossly autistic four year old put him on a school bus. He was to be dropped at a school at 8 am.
At 12 pm he was found to be still on the bus by a mechanic who had gone to service the bus. Subsequently the bus driver was fired.
This incident filled certain blogs and was a major talking point on fora and message boards.
I was always a flake.. I learned how to do as little as possible to avoid being thought capable of managing anything beyond breathing.
Although I can be extremely competent and hard working, and reliable and all that jazz, I can pretty much give the appearance of being out to lunch.
As you may note, I use a sloth as my avatar.
So How Was It...
My thirteenth summer and I was sent to camp so my parents could get rid of me. At the camp I was made a C.I.T., a Counselor In Training.
As the centrepiece of my position I was in charge of a girl called Frieda.
At the time I had never heard the word Autistic. To me, Frieda was retarded. She didn't give any trouble, save when we went to the pool. Then I had to undress her, put on her bathing suit, take her to the pool and order her to sit on the benches.
Then I'd go swimming.
When I was done, I'd have to take her back inside, undress her, dress her, and take her to the bus. This was my job.
One day my mother didn't send me to camp.
I was thirteen, my mother was in charge of me.
The next day, when I reached camp there was the Spanish Inquisition.
Apparently, during my dereliction of duty, Frieda had nearly drowned in the pool. The police were called, an ambulance took her away.
And where was I?
Did I mention I was thirteen year old Flake?
Anyway, someone with more brains then the majority of my Inquisitors, jumped up and announced this fact, (which wasn't all that flattering to me). Then made a public service announcement as to how was it that the camp accepted Frieda in the first place? Did her parent even know that she had been put in my charge and that I was a kid? And a flakey one at that?
I was a thirteen year old, entrusted with a grossly autistic child. I was given no warning, had no understanding of Frieda's condition, but I was made responsible.
This was a bus driver, with no training beyond driving a bus, made responsible for a grossly autistic child's welfare.
You see the connection I'm making here?
It gets worse
A relative of mine got a job in a Florida day care centre. One of those 'play schools' or whatever it is called which costs the earth. She had absolutely no training at all whatsoever, but figured it wouldn't be difficult as she had been around kids all her life. (She was not a flake, either)
She quickly noticed one little girl who sat rocking by herself in the corner and pointed this out to her supervisor. She was told that as long as the child didn't hurt the other kids or herself to ignore her.
My relative didn't find this comforting and spoke to someone else who made it clear that the school was in business to make money and every single paying student was vital. Hence, ignore the child. Don't say a word to the parents. If the parents do not inform the school or the 'teacher' that the child is autistic, the teacher doesn't tell the parents.
When the parents come up on report day, smile and say, "Well, she has a problem with sharing," and leave it at that.
Many parents of autistic children practice denial. They don't seem to notice that their child is 'different'.
Why they do this can be attributed to a lot of reasons, but when a third party is involved to the extent that it becomes 'their fault' if anything happens to the child, one has to take a very jaundiced look at their 'parenting'.
No one ever used the word 'autistic' to me about Frieda. Nor to the Counselor. They simply said, (to the administrators) the child was a bit 'slow' and needed 'a little help'.
The counselor, with twenty plus kids, chose me for elevation to C.I.T. and entrusted me to look after Frieda. As far as the counselor beleived the problem was under control.
If Frieda had drowned when I was AWOL would I be blamed for that? Would I be entitled to point at my mother and say "It was her fault"?
Or is it the parents fault for sending Frieda to a standard day camp without warning, checking up or doing anything to insure that their special needs child was having her special needs specially dealt with?
Which brings me back to the bus driver.