Guest Post from Ink and Daggers

Reprinted with permission from the poet.  More of her work can be seen on the Ink and Daggers tumblr

I do write quite a bit more than draw, but I tend to keep most of that private. I also don’t write a whole lot of poetry. I did write this one though. I’ve worked with autistic folks, mostly young children, for the better part of the last decade. Autism and disability are the major focus of most of my creative works, as a space to process my own struggles with the “disability services sector.”

Content warning for ableist, institutional child abuse.

Image: Illustration of small boy with light skin and dark, wavy hair sitting in a chair.  He has a scared expression on his face.  His arms are up defensively as a pair of adult hands is in front of him, pointing a spray bottle toward him.  There are several classroom posters behind the boy, a pink ASL alphabet, a multicolored handprint poster and a brown poster with white pecs cards.  There is a table to the left of the boy with an open notebook that looks like a behavior chart and a clear glass.

Image: Illustration of small boy with light skin and dark, wavy hair sitting in a chair. He has a scared expression on his face. His arms are up defensively as a pair of adult hands is in front of him, pointing a spray bottle toward him. There are several classroom posters behind the boy, a pink ASL alphabet, a multicolored handprint poster and a brown poster with white pecs cards. There is a table to the left of the boy with an open notebook that looks like a behavior chart and a clear glass.

——

“My name is Christine and I work with children with autism”

i
the first time i hurt a child
my boss tells me i am good at my job
the second time i hurt a child
my boss tells me i am good at my job
the third time i hurt a child
my boss tells me i am good at my job
i like my job
i am good at my job
positive reinforcement

ii
my boyfriend hates picking me up after work
he says its the sterile environment
schools shouldn’t look like a hospital, he says
i feel exhausted as i reflect on the sterile, clinical building
then i remember that this isn’t a school
this is a treatment center

iii
i’m so sorry
but that is not earning your token
stand up
sit down
stand up
sit down
stand up
sit down
stand up
sit down
stand up
sit down
stand up
sit down
stand up
sit down
stand up
sit down
stand up
sit down
stand up
sit down

iv
he asks me if i’ll do the horsie song
i’m sitting in the shade and he plummets into my lap before i can respond
it is a rare treat for him to speak
i can’t help but indulge him, so i sing
“this is how the ladies ride, up and down, side by side
this is how the horsies go, yippity yi, yippity yo!”
he laughs and thanks me before bolting back to the playground

v
i lose count of how many times i hurt children
i don’t know if its the hundreth or thousanth or millionth time i hurt a child
i’m holding a spray bottle of vinegar
he spits it out after the third time
sobbing, he tells me that he hates his life and wants to die
six years old
the kid sitting next to him cannot speak, and instead starts wailing
i’m a bad person, i think
i hesitate
my boss tells me that i am not doing my job
i go home and cry
the next day i don’t hesitate
positive punishment

vi
my boss calls all the classroom staff in for a meeting
she tells us that we need to stop being so affectionate with the children
it is unprofessional and inappropriate, she insists
she warns us that we will be put on corrective action for any future offenses
a week later he asks me if i will sing the horsie song
so i sing him the horsie song
after our sessions are over, my boss calls me into her office
i am put on corrective action
but that’s how you do the horsie song, i argue
i warned you, she reminds me

vii
i am told there will be a few positions open for full time
i am encouraged to apply
i begin filling out the application
i think about the pay raise
i think about having my own classroom
i think about training new staff
i think about what we do
i turn off the computer before i finish the application
i leave the center and never come back

viii
my new job is much better
but the center is still open
less than five minutes away from my apartment
hundreds of children still spend their days there
stand up
sit down
no longer seeing it doesn’t make it any less of a material reality
stand up…

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About Lei

PACLA is an Autistic friendly space dedicated to guiding parents toward respectful supports and accommodations for their Autistic children through the concepts of gentle parenting and a belief in the value of neurodiversity.

Posted on July 8, 2015, in Parenting Autistic Children with Love and Acceptance. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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