Autism is a disorder that affects brain development, preventing normal social and communication skills. It usually appears in the first three years of a child’s life.
David Shaulis of Pryor has three sons, two with autism.
Shaulis said teachers at Lincoln Elementary School recommended medication for his five-year-old, who is severely autistic. “They want to make him a zombie. I refuse to have my child become a medicated zombie. How can anyone function under the influence of any kind of drug whatever it is? I don’t believe in that.
“I can understand some medication for some situations, but they want to medicate him just because they don’t want to deal with him....he is a handful, there is no doubt about that.” Shaulis said the school wanted him to pick up his son at 11 a.m. every day, rather than have him in school until 3 p.m. Shaulis believes his son’s teacher does not have the patience necessary to deal with his son, and there are not enough aides in the classroom to monitor the special needs students.
“Autistic children have a tendency to run. They bolt from time to time,” Shaulis said. His son bolted out of the classroom recently. “He almost made it to a parking lot, and they are blaming him, but they are not taking any responsibility for their own actions. They want to continue to send him home, send him home, send him home. Don’t try to find out the root of the problem, it’s always ‘He’s disturbing my classroom.’”
The aide did go after Shaulis’ son when the boy ran away, Shaulis said. “There have been cases where autistic children have been found in lakes and pools because they have drowned. They are drawn to water,” Shaulis said.
Autistic children have sensory issues. Over stimulation leads to emotional meltdowns, Shaulis said.
“If you or I are watching a movie, we are focused on the movie, enjoying the sound effects. Autistic children hear the sound much louder and everything on the screen becomes wavy.” Shaulis said autistic children need to do something to calm down. They will jump up and down or they may even hit themselves. These are called ‘stemming issues.’
Stemming issues are habits. All people have these habits, Shaulis said, but with the autistic, it is a different habit. They may stomp their feet, have “busy hands,” or scream out loud.
Shaulis said his son can be educated and he sees a speech therapist twice a week. He said the speech therapist does wonderful things with his son. “He listens to her, he responds to direction. He used to not speak. His speech has come along gradually. He needs attention. I understand if you have a classroom full of 10 to 12 children, that is difficult. They all have special needs. Some are physically disabled, some are mentally disabled.”
Shaulis said that autistic children don’t bond with many people. It is a matter of trust that must be established before they will bond with another person.
Shaulis said he runs a support group for parents of autistic children in Tahlequah. “I don’t believe he should be left behind because you can’t deal with his issues.” Shaulis said that the classrooms need more aides. There are two in the classroom at Lincoln Elementary now. Shaulis said his oldest son who is autistic doesn’t have an aide, but he is higher functioning. “He’s doing good, but apparently they want to deal with higher functioning autistic students.
“Their motto is, ‘No Child Left Behind.’ Well, they want to leave my child behind. They want to let him fall between the cracks, I refuse to let it happen.”
Shaulis said that Lincoln Elementary School wants to set up an Individual Education Plan to address his five-year-old’s issues.
Don Raleigh, Pryor school superintendent, said the school does not medicate any child. They may encourage the parent to medicate a child. “We are adequately staffed for the children. We have invested heavily in special needs kids. Both playgrounds are handicapped accessible,” Raleigh said.
Raleigh said he wants to work with the parents of the students to do whatever they can to best meet student needs. Raleigh said Lincoln Elementary School met with Shaulis and they had a very productive meeting.
Shaulis called the meeting “semi-productive.” He said he will be allowed to come to school to assist his son in the classroom.