A mother in Massachusetts is upset after teachers gave her son with autism a “Most Likely to Get Lost in a Crowd” superlative for the end of the year. Desiree Perez said she found the certificate in her son’s end of the year paperwork that she retrieved from the school late last week. School officials are investigating what caused the teachers to give the boy such an insensitive award.
According to a report on WJAR, Desiree Perez went to her son’s middle school to retrieve his belongs last week. Perez said her son was sick and unable to attend his final day of school. When she arrived at the school, teachers gave her a stack of papers. As she looked through the papers, she found an award signed by all of her son’s teachers.
The award read, “Most Likely to Get Lost in a Crowd.” Perez became angered when she saw the award because her son has autism. In an interview with WJAR Perez said,
“I thought that was very wrong.”
Perez continued by saying,
“I didn’t think it was funny. My son didn’t find it funny either,” Perez said. “He said, why was a teacher giving him this award because he was never lost in the school?”
Perhaps most troubling to the mother was that her son’s teacher signed the award. According to Perez, her son’s teacher knows about his struggles related to his autism.
“I found it disrespectful because she knows mostly than anybody that I struggle a lot with my son,” Perez told WJAR. “I felt very bad because I don’t think this should be given, not only to my son, not to any kid, because of every kid struggles in school.”
When WJAR reached out to the school principal, he told the outlet that they were conducting a full investigation. The principal said that the school planned to meet with Perez to discuss the incident.
After Perez met with the principal, she felt defeated by the school’s response. According to Perez, the principal apologized for the insensitive award. However, she said that the school couldn’t do anything because all of the teacher’s left for summer vacation.
Perez told WJAR that she wants a meeting with the superintendent and the teachers involved to provide them more education related to autism.
Children with autism have a high risk for elopement. According to the CDC, wandering, or elopement is a safety issue for many people with autism. The CDC says,
“Wandering is when someone leaves a safe area or a responsible caregiver. This typically includes situations where the person may be injured or harmed as a result.1 Wandering goes beyond the brief time that a typical toddler might run off from a caregiver. Some children and youth with disabilities, such as those with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or intellectual disability (ID), have challenges understanding safety issues and communicating with others.
For example, such a child might run off from home to play in the pond down the street- and be unable to respond to his name or say where he lives. This can happen quickly, even under constant supervision. The child’s parents are left searching desperately for him or her.”
- Watch the child’s behaviors
- Have an emergency plan to respond
- Keep information about the child up-to-date (picture, description)
- Secure your home (fences, door locks)
- Keep identification on the child (ID bracelet or information card)
- Notice signs that the child may wander off before it happens (for example, child makes a certain sound or looks towards the door)
- Be alert about the child’s location
- Provide a safe location
- Inform neighbors and school workers
- Alert first responders
Teach Safety Skills
- Responding to safety commands (“stop”)
- Stating name and phone number (or showing ID)
- Swimming, crossing the street
Due to the danger of elopement, the award provided to Perez related to her son seems completely tone-deaf and irresponsible by the teachers. Individuals with autism need assistance and proper supervision to prevent them from wandering. By mocking the child’s ability to stay with a group, the teachers demonstrated their lack of empathy and understanding of the complex neurological disorder.
Hopefully, the mother will be able to speak with the superintendent. Children with autism need supportive caregivers and teachers to help them thrive, learn, and grow through life. Joking about a child’s disability is a form of discrimination and bullying. Teachers need to know better and realize their actions before making these choices.
Mom of an autistic middle school student in New Bedford is upset after her son got this superlative at the end of the year. “Most Likely to Get Lost in a Crowd” School officials are now investigating. @NBC10 @ 5:00 pic.twitter.com/3U3E9BjDoj
— Brian Crandall (@nbc10_brian) June 17, 2019
*Katie Joy is a columnist and hosts Without A Crystal Ball on Patheos Non-Religious Channel. She writes articles on parenting, disability advocacy, debunking pseudoscience, atheism, and crimes against women and children.
She co-hosts the YouTube show, “The Smoking Nun,” with Kyle Curtis on The Non-Sequitur Channel. The show airs weekly and tackles pseudoscience, current events, and crime stories.
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