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Writing with Pen

Stories

Read what Michigan residents have to say about their experiences with seclusion and restraint in schools.

I got put in a dark room

that day,

 like many days during a meltdown. Can't remember if it was the janitor's closet or one of the small meeting rooms near the principal's office…but it was completely dark."

I had been in there for what felt like an eternity.

I stayed in the chair at the small table like they asked me to, though I was worn out, scared, sad and frustrated. All I wanted was to feel understood, and to feel safe, but I didn't know how to do that."

I know this led to a lot of issues with my self worth,

dampened my ability to speak up, made me fearful of authority, and made me feel even more anxious about social situations."

It was the 90's, I was in 1st grade.

I was pulled away by the wrist, punished for trying to fit in.

I remember having a huge meltdown, but not what happened during the meltdown other than crying and screaming.

There were so many times where I had meltdowns because I felt like I couldn't defend myself verbally.

I hope in the future, children of all neurotypes are treated with much more kindness than I was, and that grown ups try to understand them instead of putting them in a dark closet when things get too difficult.

There was one teacher, especially in 3rd-4th grade at my elementary school that did a lot of research on autism with my mom.  She really changed my life for the better.

I am super lucky that my mom was so empathetic. 

I wish everyone was as empathetic as her.  Her level of kindness should be a standard.

I am a 33 year old Autistic woman, and I've always wanted to write or speak on my experiences with autism.

 

I remember one specific experience where I was trying to fit in with everyone else, to blend in or “mask”. It was the 90's, I was in 1st grade. I don't think what I did was right, but I was also following along with what other kids were doing. 

 

There was this boy that got made fun of, I'll give him a fake name, Bert. 

 

At school, we were brought out into the hallway to go to another classroom, and we were asked to get into two lines, a boys line, and a girls line. 

 

Bert got into the girls line, and everyone started giggling. I can't giggle, even now, I always laugh, very loudly. 

 

So, even though all of the girls were wrong for giggling, I was the only loud one. I was pulled away by the wrist, punished for trying to fit in. I remember this overwhelming feeling of injustice, because everyone should have gotten in trouble, yet I was the only one getting pulled away, in trouble once again for doing what I thought was right. At some point I started crying and pulling away, trying to come up with the words to defend myself, but it was no use against grownups. 

 

I remember having a huge meltdown, but not what happened during the meltdown other than crying and screaming. I know I tried to pull my wrist away from the grown up, and cried out for my mom a few times, but that didn't work.

 

I got put in a dark room that day, like many days during a meltdown. Can't remember if it was the janitor's closet or one of the small meeting rooms near the principal's office…but it was completely dark.

 

I had been in there for what felt like an eternity. I stayed in the chair at the small table like they asked me to, though I was worn out, scared, sad and frustrated. All I wanted was to feel understood, and to feel safe, but I didn't know how to do that. 

 

One of the staff members came into the room, trying to cheer me up. She talked to me for a bit, tried asking me questions. I can't remember if I was even able to respond or if I was too emotionally distressed. I think as a last ditch effort, she tried distracting me with her light up sweater. The lights flickered and she was trying to get me to comment on how neat they were. I can't remember if it was halloween or christmas designed, but I didn't care. I couldn't understand why they had me there! I started crying again for my mom, who was the only one that ever made me feel safe. The staff woman left the room, probably in defeat, and left me in the dark again. 

 

There were so many times they were probably frustrated with me because they did not understand me or how to help me. 

 

There were also so many times where I had meltdowns because I felt like I couldn't defend myself verbally. 

 

I was never given the agency I needed, or the social and emotional support to handle these situations. I didn't learn how to fit in socially like everyone else and I didn't understand the mistakes I made until it was too late. 

 

My mom says she found out they would put me in there for many hours, she says sometimes it was with one other child who also could not be helped, but I don't remember the other kid. 

 

I know this led to a lot of issues with my self worth, dampened my ability to speak up, made me fearful of authority, and made me feel even more anxious about social situations. 

 

If it wasn't for my Mom fighting really hard to get me some support that got me through school, I can’t imagine what would have happened to me, or how I would have turned out. I was finally diagnosed by 3rd grade, and that's when things started getting better. I was able to do things like draw during class to calm myself. Things were not perfect, but I don't remember having as many meltdowns or being isolated many times after I got more support. 

 

I hope in the future, children of all neurotypes are treated with much more kindness than I was, and that grown ups try to understand them, instead of putting them in a dark closet when things get too difficult.

 

I was the first kid diagnosed with autism at my school, and I believe the first in that school district. My mom had to have many meetings to inform higher ups about autism. 

 

All the teachers were always really nice to me even before my diagnosis, I am even friends on facebook with some of them because they were awesome. It was the adult volunteers and a handful of staff members that usually secluded me before my diagnosis. Some staff members were really nice too.

 

There was one teacher, especially in 3rd-4th grade at my elementary school that did alot of research on autism with my mom. She really changed my life for the better. Her efforts helped me be who I am today. It even showed in my school work, as my low grades turned into all A's. (If she reads this, I hope she is doing well, she is an amazing person).

 

I would continue to strive for A's for my entire middle school and highschool years too. I think with more training on autism and meltdowns, for all school staff, they would have all been better equipped.

 

If there is any advice I can give to families, it's to never stop advocating for what's right. My mom advocated for me so much, and fought for me to be treated better. It's not an easy fight, but I think the efforts she took to inform them about autism really helped them begin to understand me. 

 

Also, please be kind to kids having meltdowns. 

 

I am super lucky that my mom was so empathetic. I never remember her getting mad or upset with me, and I had a lot of meltdowns, in stores, at home, anywhere. What I do remember is her either giving me space, or hugging me. Always love, never anger. 

 

I thank her alot now, and talk to her about it often. She says “I saw you crying, hitting your head on the floor, trying to bite yourself, and all I could see was that my child was hurting. Many people [at stores] said rude things, but that didn't stop me from helping you. How could I punish you, or be mad at you when you were already in so much pain? I know that you didn't want to be in pain.”

 

I know it's not exactly about seclusion, but I think it's important for everyone to know. She did all those things for almost a decade before I was diagnosed with autism. I wish everyone was as empathetic as her. Her level of kindness should be a standard.

Elementary School Memories
From Koepsell Education Center - Eastpointe, MI
by Katie Kinde

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Stories like these are so important in the movement to end seclusion and the misuse and overuse of restraint in Michigan.  

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