Parent, school clash over discipline - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Parent, school clash over discipline

2/28/2005

Lee County - Raising any child is tough, but raising an autistic child is an even bigger challenge. "He's my problem child. I know better than anybody that he's challenging," says Sissi Garvey of her son Boone.

So, how do you discipline a child who has autism? Garvey says, "Well, it's not so much punishment as positive reinforcement. An autistic child is pretty much going to do what they want to do. When you want them to do something you have to find ways to get them to do it."

Kathy Wooten, Special Education Director for Lee County Schools says teachers do use positive reinforcement with special needs students and methods of discipline are spelled out in each student's Individual education plan. She says, "Part of that process is to do what we call a functional behavior assessment. We identify the behaviors that the student's having that need to be improved. We identify what the target behaviors are."

And in some situations, says Wooten, students are sent to "Time Out". "There are limited things that you can do when children become aggressive," says Wooten, "and we don't ever want a child to hurt himself and we don't ever want a child to hurt someone else."

But Sissi Garvey says she was told the time out room is nothing more than a closet. "They told me the time out room was a 6 x 3 room, and so I told them I want to see it now, and they said I could see it later, so I took him and left."

WALB was not allowed to see the room either, but Wooten says it is not a closet, but a room under constant supervision by a teacher. She says it's used as a teaching tool. "It's not just because they have a disability that they can get away with everything," says Wooten. "I mean, certainly, they can't hurt anybody, we want to teach them to be productive citizens."

But Garvey believes her son would be more productive, if a different discipline method was used, and for now, is removing Boone from the school.

posted by karen.collier@walb.com