Friday, January 27, 2012

The Sumsion Story

My son, Spencer, is an early intervention miracle. He was diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum before he turned three years old. Through the hard work of many dedicated teachers and professionals, at nine, most people cannot tell he is on the spectrum.

Unfortunately, due to personnel changes in the Butler County School District, his education experience deteriorated. After a month in school this year, he came home almost every day, in tears. He withdrew into himself, lashed out at me and generally seemed to forget how to smile or communicate. He regressed to melt downs almost every day and began hitting and throwing things at school.

After observing in the classroom, it was immediately apparent to me and to an Autism Coordinator that I called in, that the classroom was set up in a way that overloaded his senses and the adults interacting with him lacked the skill or desire to accommodate his unique educational needs. The situation escalated to a point where I pulled him out of school to remove him from the hostile environment.

When I finally had him home, I spent the first month unable to educate him in math or reading. My curriculum consisted of convincing him that he was a good boy. No parent should have to experience telling their child they are a good kid and have their child respond with eyes wide with surprise, and whisper, “I am?”

Put yourself in my shoes. My child, who came so far against the odds of his disability, was taught at school that he was a bad kid. Why would I send him back to a place where he received that debilitating message?

With no previous knowledge of homeschooling procedure in Nebraska prior to pulling my son, I was unaware of the excessive and stifling rules associated with changing learning environments. Spencer missed enough school before the paperwork was processed that I received a letter from the county attorney threatening prosecution if I didn’t send my son back to school immediately.

At that point, I had no viable alternative. I sent him back and I watched him deteriorate once again. I cannot adequately communicate the relief I felt once I received my homeschooling paperwork and I could again make decisions for my child’s education without fear of criminal charges.

What I didn’t understand through the whole ordeal is why I would be threatened with truancy charges when I knew where my child was and I took the initiative to educate him.

No law, no matter how well meaning, should force a parent to send a child to a hostile environment. No state, especially not Nebraska, should penalize a parent for taking over the reins of an out of control situation. I beg you. Bring reason back to truancy definitions and stop parental persecution for making decisions about their child’s heath, education and well-being.

Sabrina Sumsion

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