by Ray Ferris
author of the book “The Art of Child Protection.”
You can purchase it from him by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org
|Ray Ferris receiving the Justice Award|
As I have stated before, there is no shortage of experts who can define autism, bipolar disorder, attention deficit disorder, hyperactivity and on and on. There is no shortage of experts who can tell us confidently just what we should be doing with all these children and others and how much more of it we should be doing. There is just one little snag. There is a great shortage of results. If we look at the long haul, most autistic children are unable to manage independently as adults. We can spend all kinds of money on them and we can demand all sorts of things from the government, but for the most part we are describing process. Certainly all the people who work with autism and other difficult conditions are dedicated and sincere and they will usually see small gains here and there, because they must believe in what they are doing. However, most of these children will not be functioning normally by any stretch of the imagination even after years of effort.
Of course there are a few notable exceptions like Ms. Temple Grandin, who is a genius with animals, but they are few and far between. What do we really hope to accomplish with children like Ayn in a regular school setting. It takes two full time teaching assistants to manage her behaviour. Not only is she not getting an education, but she is probably a distraction for other children. Albert Einstein pointed out that it is irrational to do the same thing over and over again and expect the results to be different. He could have said stupid. He was thinking in the scientific context, but the same is true for society at large. Just as the biggest countries in the world cannot borrow their way out of debt, but they keep trying. The children’s ministry cannot solve non-administrative problems with administrative devices, but that is all they ever do. Freudian psychology claimed that people’s maladjustment could be fixed by the process of psycho-analysis. If it did not seem to be working, then there should be more of it. More sessions over more years. Never would they admit that the theory could be flawed. It was flawed of course, but two generations wasted their money on it before it was abandoned by the insurance companies.
With all the money that is spent on autistic programs, can the authorities define specific goals and targets that they hope to reach? If they can, I would like to hear about them, because all I see everywhere is couched in generalities. In school we expect children to learn to read and write, to do arithmetic and to learn about the world of science and humanity. Children who cannot learn to read and write cannot participate in many important ways. Do such children really belong in a normal classroom situation? If all we can hope to do is to contain and manage behaviour, should we be doing this at the expense of other children. Many types of children, such as those with Down syndrome, can be trained and they can learn to manage their own behaviour. But many autistic children cannot. What are we hoping to do with them? Can anyone enlighten me?
Later this week, I hope to write about the function of the protection system with special needs children. When is it appropriate for the state to take over parenting for them and when it is not? Ray Ferris
Ray Ferris is an occasional GPS post writer. Retired now, Ray speaks from 31 years in child welfare and protection as a social worker, district supervisor and family court coordinator. He cannot tolerate injustice imposed upon families by ineffectual case work.