Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Very interesting article from Parenting Aspergers about Teacher with Aspergers

I was reading an interesting story today online that I wanted to share about a teacher with Aspergers Syndrome.

This is a slightly different slant, as mostly we are looking at children with Aspergers and their neurotypical teachers. And this is the reverse; a teacher with Aspergesr and neurotypical children.

Anyway this teacher is Robert Wollkind from Conneticut – who has been teaching math for 32 years. He is facing the sack from his job as he is accused of making inappropriate comments to a student. It is alleged that he asked an overweight student if he had “eaten his homework”.

It was also said that Robert has made previous inappropriate comments to other students, including screaming, using abusive language and grabbing a student.

Robert has been placed on administrative leave since November last year, and it is all currently go through court for  final decision on whether his contract will be terminated.

Anthony Bivona is the local supervisor for the school district and he feels that Robert should be fired as he failed to "provide a classroom environment where students were physically and emotionally safe and felt respected.”

Robert says that most of the incidents have been inaccurately recorded.
At the first part of the court hearing previous students testified on behalf of Robert. Also Dr. Jonathan Bauman, a psychiatrist and chief medical officer of Four Winds Hospital in Katonah, N.Y., who diagnosed Robert with Asperger's Syndrome in 2002, said that he had recently re-evaluated him and thought that he had the ability to teach.

So here’s what I think…

This is really fascinating because as I said earlier, it really turns on its head the situation we normally hear; of a neurotypical teacher being insensitive with a child who has Aspergers.

First and foremost no child should be treated this way by a teacher it’s just plain not on. You only have to see how angry we all get when we hear tales of children with Aspergers being mistreated and misunderstood by teachers to know that.

So whether its Aspergers, being over weight, wearing glasses or a thousand other things, children have the absolute right to be treated respectfully by their teachers. And this just didn’t happen.

So what of Robert Wollkind…  Now I am sure that many people would say well in that case as he said mean things to the child he should be sacked.

However; it is quite possible that he didn’t fully understand the full social implications of what he was saying because of issues relating to empathy and lack of social skills.

In this case I think the superintendent is making a BIG MISTAKE if he sacks Robert.
From the information I have this appears to be the first really clear cut example of inappropriate teaching skills. There appears to have been previous issues but they have never really been seen to be investigated or acted upon.

So to then suddenly add previous allegations into the mix, which Robert says have been inaccurately reported, appears a little unreasonable.

Now clearly Robert’s behaviour towards the overweight child cannot be condoned, and nor can it be allowed to be repeated.

However as this may be due to issues with his Aspergers he deserves the offer of some help not punishment.
Why not assess his needs and see if there are learning experiences for him about empathy, social skills and the appropriate use of humor?

Then to safeguard other children – have his practice shadowed/assessed for a period of time to ensure that he is able to learn these lessons and apply them..

Because ultimately if he repeats these mistakes – then he will need to be moved to a different role in the education system. But if a little input and support can help him to continue to teach – then that should definitely happen.

Because as well as Robert’s career, what about the other children in the local school system with Aspergers?
Because if he’s sacked the story going around will pretty much be that “he’s been sacked for having Aspergers”.

This can only have a negative impact for local kids with Aspergers and remove a potential Aspergers role model in Robert.

So to sum up my thoughts – Robert needs to be given support and the chance to learn and develop from this incident, not be fired.

If he does it again that’s  a different matter – and another role needs to be looked at for him, away from direct work with children.

Will this happen?

In all likelihood I think not. He will probably be sacked to save any legal action, and to avoid having to pay out to give him support and guidance through this situation.

Money talks? You bet (sadly). But watch this space for the outcome…

No comments:

Post a Comment