I think I was polite as the disability specialist detailed why my five year old son was under an obligation to act dumb for the benefit of society. Although … who knows exactly what expression my face was wearing.
She went on to explain that school is “for teaching kids to be bored” (this is a quote, not a paraphrase), because “that’s how life is” (that’s a paraphrase). And I think it was at this point that I wondered if I was going to completely lose it – I’d had a massive adrenalin rush hearing all this, and I wasn’t sure quite how my voice was going to come out should I try to speak.
“Right,” I heard myself agree, “especially since we know that high IQ individuals are disproportionately represented in jobs requiring minimal cognitive challenge, let’s just cut to the chase. My boy is too clever to be a brain surgeon! Let’s get him prepped for the kind of job he’s – statistically – more likely to gravitate towards – being a supermarket checkout chick! If we teach him how to be bored effectively enough now then he won’t find scanning grocery items for 8 hours a day quite so tedious when he leaves school. No, seriously, this is what highly gifted people end up doing, and I think it’s really wise to be preparing for this now.”
The school counsellor chimed in, agreeing with me thus: “It’s quite true that highly gifted people do end up in these kinds of jobs that we wouldn’t expect…” and I suddenly realised I wasn’t fighting this battle on my own. The school counsellor had my back. She was on my son’s side. And at that point I realised I was looking at everyone around the table as either being those who were on my son’s side and those who weren’t.
Those who were proactively on my son’s side were my husband, our son’s classroom teacher and the school counsellor. There were two people in the room without any prior knowledge of his case, and they didn’t say anything, so they were down as neutral. And then there was the specialist.
And the specialist was moving onto her next bullet point: “Look, I can’t believe I’m saying this to you, but we could send him to a school especially for kids with autism where they’ll sit him at a desk and say to him ‘You’re not leaving this table until you’ve done your handwriting’, and they’ll just teach him he has to do what he’s told.”
So, I found myself making a note to myself – if you find yourself saying out loud “I can’t believe I’m saying this” maybe that’s because you really shouldn’t be saying it – while simultaneously wondering what freaking planet this woman had flown in from, and how we could get her back there as quickly as possible.
As she’d been telling me about the opportunity my son had to be subjected to classroom torture the specialist had been pointing her finger onto the table, tapping it down on the table top to emphasise how the teachers at this school would keep my son at his desk til he learned to submit to their meaningless tasks, how his spirit would be broken so he could fit in to the 19th century model of class education the school system still operates within, how his curiosities would be ignored and how his creativity would be denied.
I have absolutely no idea what happened from this point of the meeting onward. Where there should be memory there’s just a blank anger filling all the space. I know that my son’s classroom teacher said things that made optimism course through my veins (this teacher really knows my son and how inappropriate this all is!) and I know that whatever I said was backed up by the school counsellor (unafraid to support my son’s needs despite any professional sense of collegial loyalty!) and that my husband came up with *the* best anecdotal support for whatever I was trying to say (we’re not fighting over the right approach for our son!), and as angry as I was I was also buoyant as we left the school grounds – whatever was coming next it wasn’t just me fighting this fight.
And I absolutely had no idea what was coming next.
To be continued…