A Look At the Proper Use of Services for an Autistic Child (Op Ed)

by Josh Rayfield 

When I was growing up in grade school I was in guided learning classes because I had a learning disability but the real nature of my learning disability was not known. I went to a private school for kindergarten and first grade. I was transferred into public school in second grade when my learning disability was diagnosed and I stayed there until I graduated high school. I started in guided learning classes at that time. In second grade I had to attend adaptive gym otherwise known as adaptive PE. This was because I had trouble in gym class with typical class activities like throwing and catching a ball, speed, and paying attention to what was going on around me. Academically, I struggled with math and with test taking. I needed help with homework every night and I very often had trouble keeping up with assignments in school and getting them done in a timely manner. Despite this, I got good grades in school and I continued on to college and I completed a Bachelor of Arts degree. I received guided learning support services in college.

During grade school, I experienced a lot of anxiety because I was constantly worried about failing in class. However, I had the love and support of my family and the services that were provided by the school system were good enough to get me through. At the time it time it was not known that I had an Autism spectrum disorder. This was for the most part the 1980’s. Even if I had been diagnosed then, the services that I would have been provided were not what they are today. I was very lucky growing up with my disability in the sense that in addition to the love and support that I got from my family, I did not need home care. Trying to get outside support for day to day living needs for me was never considered. As I grew up and became a teenager and young adult, I was able to go out in to the community without supervision, on my own.

The fact that George Hodgins did have access to services and did not receive proper help in getting the right services is a tragedy. I think that Georges mother pulling him out of the support services that were there for him is a tragedy. I think that George would have benefited from an assisted living facility where he would get the help that he needed with day to day care, and learned basic living skills. He would have received occupational therapy as well as emotional support therapy. I have had six and a half years of occupational therapy and it has helped me immensely. I think that George would have benefited from someone teaching him about the world around him and exposing him to it in a healthy positive way. Along with this, he needed someone to help him tap his potential to help him find strengths that I know that he had.

His mother had no right to do what she did. She had a mental illness. George deserved real help from people who truly cared about him and had his best interests in mind. He needed to be taken out of the environment that he was living in with her and he needed to be put in a healthier environment. I know that there were support services available to him. The tragedy is that he was denied them by his mother and that there was nobody in his life to over-rule his mother and get him out of that environment and in to one where he could be kept safe and given care by individuals who were able to help him.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Josh’s piece is an opinion piece, and as such is his opinions not those of the blog as a whole. For more details, please see the comments]

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6 thoughts on “A Look At the Proper Use of Services for an Autistic Child (Op Ed)

  1. I’m deeply disturbed by the pro-institutionalization bias in lines such as “I think that George would have benefited from an assisted living facility,” on a disability rights blog.

    Whether or not George’s mother had a mental illness is irrelevant to this discussion. Mental illness does not make a person more likely to murder.

    In addition, it is intensely problematic to discuss services and supports in the context of a murder. The tragedy of George Hodgins was that he was murdered, not that he didn’t receive proper supports. The conversations need to be kept separate; otherwise the murder is legitimized, and people with disabilities are essentially held hostage.

    • Hi Julia! Your comment addresses a couple of things, and a lot of them have to do with the particular Author’s writing/communication levels. Josh is very new to writing in this format, and I think that his intent didn’t come across. As you know, it can take a lot of practice for those of us with communication difficulties to learn to say things how we mean them.

      Additionally, this is an opinion piece, and I’ll go in and add an Editor’s comment to that effect. It should have been added before, and I apologize deeply for that

      What I believe happened was that Josh was trying to express was that the services were available, and so shouldn’t be used as an excuse for his mother’s behavior. He tried to further illustrate that by talking about his own services. Additionally, he was attempting to suggest that George might have been better served in a setting that wasn’t with his family, and his mother in particular. Unfortunately, he didn’t get that across, and I’m alarmed to see that it could be read as pro-institutional.

      I’m going to go ask Josh to come and comment on this himself, since it is an opinion piece and not an issues piece in the style of the rest of the blog.

      Thank you for your comments, and I do appreciate the improvements that we can make based on them. I look forward to your comments in the future.

    • From Josh:

      I want to say that I am really truly sorry for offending anybody or hurting anybody. I grew up with a learning disability in guided learning classes and had to struggle to overcome challenges. I did not express myself properly when I composed my post.

      I am new to this and it was very hard to write. I have never written about my disability or tapped in to my feelings about things that are bad that happen to people in the disability community.

      If [George’s mom] had lived, she should of been prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. I feel that part of my problem is that I am a former criminal justice major and I let my feelings about why people commit crimes and do evil things (as george’s mother did), get in the way of talking about what happened to george and as a result what I write gets taken out of context.

      I will go back in to the blog tommorow and respond to what I meant in my post.

  2. I would like to make a reply about the “pro-institutionalization” comment. There is no single “one size fits all” solution for people with disabilities. Institutionalization is inappropriate for people who have a solid support system and who have comparatively high functioning skills. Some individuals, however, need more intense, ongoing support, and I believe that a residential facility – even temporarily – might be more appropriate in those cases. I don’t think that Josh was implying that all people with disabilities should be “dumped” in institutions so that others don’t have to “bother” with them. I thought he was saying that IN GEORGE’S PARTICULAR SITUATION he did not get adequate care in his home environment, and he could have benefited from the more intense support that an assisted living facility could provide. As I said previously, and as Josh pointed out in his writing, everyone is different, and everyone has different needs.

  3. That is what I meant to say. Nobody who has a disability of any kind should be put away in an institution for there entire life and be ignored. Individuals who have disabilities all have something positive to contribute to the world. They have lessons to teach others.They need to be given the tools they need to deal with and overcome the challenges that they face.They need a loving and caring environment that is supportive of them as they work to achieve their full potential.

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