Friday, October 23, 2009

Yet Another Reason To Homeschool Your Child

I came across this article in the Hartford Advocate.
It is downright disturbing.

"A pre-schooler in the West Hartford public school system is made to wear a weight vest for being too wiggly"

A 3-year-old boy was made to wear a weight vest - sort of a smock with weights in it "to weigh him down so he can stay sitting longer."

You know, if a parent did this at home they would most likely be charged with child abuse.

It seems this 3 year old boy in this West Hartford, CT pre-school didn't want to sit still for "circle time.... He was "wiggly" and didn't "listen well" and the weight vest "helped him".

The mom said - "It was sad because [my son] was the only one who had that used on him".
She also said to the administrators,"Why didn't you just tie him to a tree? It's the same thing".
School officials declined to comment on the Rodriguezes' account of events.

Weighted vests are in fact used in therapy for autistic children, or children with sensory integration disorder - a condition that makes them uncomfortable with things like fluorescent lights, or the texture of their food - according to David Medina, spokesman for Hartford Public Schools.

Medina said the vests are used in the Hartford school system, but only with the parents' consent and only when prescribed by an occupational therapist. He said experts describe the effect of the vest, when used properly, as "like being hugged."

"It's a heavy coat with lead weights," said Medina. "It's not meant as a punishment and it's only to be applied for 15 minutes, approximately."

Susan Avena, a visiting assistant professor of psychology at Trinity College in Hartford, confirmed that the pressure of a weight vest can be soothing to children with autism or other disorders.

"Autism in general is not well understood, but think of it in terms of children not being able to filter out stimulation," said Avena. "They engage in behaviors to soothe that, repetitive behaviors like spinning the wheel of a toy truck over and over. Focusing in on one stimulus feels good to them. My understanding is that the pressure of a weight vest does the same thing, eliminating some of the stimuli."

Sandra Rodriguez says her grandson is not autistic or being treated for any other disorder. He did have speech therapy for a short time, she says, but that ended when it was decided he was simply a "very quiet little boy."

As for being wiggly, Avena says that's to be expected.

"Three-year-olds wiggle. You can't expect them to sit still all the time," said Avena. "You have to design the classroom around the idea that 3-year-olds have a short attention span and limits to the control they have over their energy. Punishment for not being able to sit still at this age is not appropriate."

By the end of the meeting that day at Aiken [school], Sandra Rodriguez says [teacher] Ann Sullivan had tears in her eyes. She says Sullivan tried to hug her, but that she turned her away.

"I said, ‘Don't touch me,' and we left," she said.

That evening, Sandra says she received a call from [Timothy] Dunn [assistant superintendent for administration], who said he was going to get to the bottom of the matter. Dunn's subsequent explanation that the vest was a "therapeutic occupational device" did little to calm Sandra's anger. But Dunn did respond quickly to the incident, and arranged for her grandson to be transferred to Whiting Lane School, where he had already attended summer school and was familiar with the teachers and other children.


"He was immobilized in front of all his peers. I can't imagine what he was thinking," Sandra said. "I keep asking him, but he doesn't know. He loves school. He probably doesn't understand what happened to him."
It is just unbelievable how children this young are expected to sit still by these school administrators and teachers. The methods and tactics used by preschools to keep "class order" and regiment these children are damaging and ridiculous. It is no wonder that kids become disturbed and suicidal after going through a system that condones this type of treatment.

What is next? Shackles in school colors?

Parents should be particularly concerned and wary of what happens to their kids at school.


Spunky said...

Awful, just plain awful.

Janet said...

Usually I'm in agreement with what you write. I do agree that parental consent must be obtained before trying something like a weighted jacket. However, I have a child on the autism spectrum and I have to say that sitting with a weight in his lap or using a weighted cover does help soothe and calm him. He can move away from the weight and isn't immobilized by the presence of a weighted jacket. It is not the same as being tied to a tree. Likely this boy isn't traumatized by the situation- his mother is. Parental consent and communication between staff and home need to be priorities (especially with children with developmental issues). We do homeschool, but spent some time within the public school system before deciding that our sons would learn better at home (and at their own pace). Sometimes trained observers (who can be preschool staff) do have a larger frame of reference to draw from when noticing children have special needs. I would never have entertained the idea was son wasn't neurotypical when he was three years old. His speech therapist hinted at it, but I couldn't see it until he was much older. He's just a normal kid with a few quirks. It's not so bad to acknowledge those quirks, just don't let them define your child.

Rachel said...

Sad story... but then I think it's sad that a three year old is in school to begin with.

Brandon7221 said...

Let's also add the story in Denver in which a disruptive child was restrained by the school's secretary with duct tape.

When I got in trouble, even little things, the school called my Mom.

Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

I am confused as to what the big deal is.

To summarize the facts as stated in the [I]Hartford Advocate[/I] article: a mother enrolls her 3-year-old son in West Hartford's highly-regarded pre-school program at Aiken (note: there's a long waiting list for this program). The mother is informed by the teacher that a "weighted vest," an approved and accepted occupational therapy device, had been used on her son the previous day. The mother and grandmother were not happy about this; however, after meeting with Aiken's principal and contact with the Assistant Superintendent for Administration that same day, the situation was quickly resolved by an apology, assurance that the vest would not be used again, and the transfer of the boy to the another pre-school program.

Bottom Line: the system works!
In fact, the grandmother was quoted as stating that the Assistant Superintendent was fair and resolved the issue in a professional manner. So why did the Advocate feel it necessary to devote a full page to this story?

Unfortunately, since school officials rightfully declined to comment on this issue because of privacy concerns, the article also included a one-sided telling of the story and subjective comments that may or may not have been relevant to the story. As a result, I feel that the [I]Hartford Advocate[/I] did a disservice to the teacher, to Aiken, and to special needs children and their parents. The use of a weighted vest is nothing like tying a child to a tree!

I'm also puzzled as to why the child's mother and grandmother had never met the principal before. Principal McKay hosted an outdoor assembly by the flagpole on the first day of school, then stood by the school's front entrance and met with each child and their parents. Didn't the mother bring her son to this assembly?

written by G. Murphy, father of three students at Aiken

Judy Aron said...

Mr. Murphy,

Sure everything was resolved in the end - but do you think it proper for the school/teacher to have such an incident in the first place? What would YOU have done had that been your child? You know, just because YOU are perhaps more involved in the school than this other parent is/was (by virtue of your knowing the principal etc.) doesn't mean that her child should have been treated in such a way without her permission no less!

YOU may not think it's a big deal to put a weighted vest on a child - but some of us think that it is not only cruel but stupid to do this to a 3 year old and make them sit in this manner.

Highly regarded pre-school? Wow...I guess learning to sit still and follow instructions and being weighted down if you are 3 years old is highly regarded by parents these days.

What a pity for today's children.

For a 3 year old wearing a weighted vest might as well be like being tied to a tree. They want to run and jump and play and have fun. That is how they are wired. That is how their early coordination and learning happens. 3 year olds are not meant to sit still for any length of time.

I suggest that you wear a proportionally weighted vest for awhile and see how you like it sir.

Judy Aron said...

I am not feeding the trolls today.

ChrissyBoo said...

I came across this while searching for any information on the vest subject. This was done to my five year old nephew in Kindergarten. Like the child in the blog, my nephew does NOT have autism or a sensory disorder. The vest was applied without his parent's consent too. I am floored, and I have cried every day since I found out this happened. He was singled out, and basically labeled as the bad kid. He is hyper, however isn't that normal energy for a five year old? In my opinion it is. Using a vest is insane, and anyone that condones it should have to wear it too!