Tuesday, February 5, 2013

School Lunches & Bullying

Yesterday, Damien let me know that he has not been eating at school because the new rules are that they are to eat outside. I sent an email to Xxxxxxx Xxxxxxxx, the counselor for the SPED Department, about it.

Ms. Xxxxxxxx,

It has come to my attention that Damien has not been eating at school anymore. He has been going through the day without lunch. I asked him why, and he has told me that he is not able to get away from the crowd  and cannot eat when he is in a crowded area. When he was in Xxxxx [middle school], Damien was given preferential seating at lunch for the same reason. We took that out of his IEP due to him being able to choose where he sits for lunch. Now, because of the new rule, he can no longer to choose to sit away from the crowd at the school. The result is him coming home with a headache and starving. It is beginning to affect his ability to concentrate, and I am afraid that his education is going to begin to suffer as well. He has told me that he is not the only student that has stopped eating for the same reason. However, my concern is for my child and his well-being. Ms. Xxxxxxxx, we do not have the monetary funds to send Damien's lunch to school with him on a daily basis as due to my present unemployment. I do feel that the additional stress on Damien is negatively affecting him. Is there anyway that he can begin to eat lunch outside again to eleviate his stress level? He has used this time to de-stress and pace since he has gone to school at Xxxxxx. I have talked to some of the teachers at Xxxxxx that know Damien, and they have told me about his daily pace (de-stress) sessions. Please help him with this issue.

Thank you,

Pamela N. Brown

Today, I received the following response:

Mrs. Brown,

I was unaware that Damien was not eating.  Thank you for letting me know. I contacted Ms. Xxxxx [the principal] and she has agreed to allow Damien to eat outside. She will let the Associates be aware and allow him to eat outside.

Tell Damien to come see me if there is ever a problem and I will help correct it.

Have a great day.

Xxxxx Xxxxxxxx
Special Education Counselor  
Xxxxxx High School

Also, Damien told me that Ms. Xxxxx [the principal] spoke to him, and reassured him that he can eat outside as needed. I am so glad when the faculty at the school address our issues and agree that the main objective of us all is for Damien to have the opportunity to get the education that he deserves.

On a different note, I have learned that Damien is still being bullied at school. As I mentioned in the above email to Damien's counselor, Damien uses lunch as an opportunity to de-stress. As a child with autism, the method is seen in stimming rituals. Damien's is to walk in a circle, specifically, at school, it is around one of the trees at school. He has been pacing around this tree since he was a freshman in high school.

One of my friends that I went to university with is a special education teacher at the school. She told me that during Damien's freshman year, she noticed he was circling that tree every day at lunch. She said that the tree had grass around it, but by the end of the first semester, Damien had worn the grass away. She went on to tell me that by the end of Damien's freshman year, there was a small trench around the tree, and by the end of his sophomore year, the trench had grown in depth. She said that she was not a least bit surprised to see Damien circling the tree at the beginning of this, his junior, year.

My friend was not the only person to notice this, as we all know, a routine is easily recognized by observers. One day, a group of football players circled the tree and started pushing Damien, laughing at him for circling the tree, and calling him "retard." One of these boys' teammates, approached the group and told them, "Stop it. That is not cool. Damien is a nice guy and far from being retarded. He is the smartest kid I know, a lot smarter than all of you."

Damien was more excited that this classmate of his that he has developed a relationship with over the years took up for him than he was upset about being bullied or picked on, but my heart is still broken over the way people continually treat my son. Damien did say that one of the boys approached him the next day and told him, "I'm sorry I was so mean to you yesterday. I feel just awful about the way I treated you, and there is no excuse for the way I acted. I have learned not to judge people because they are different." Now, Damien does not only have one person to take up for him, he has two. According to Damien, no one has treated him that way since.

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