Police place an Autistic student in handcuffs after a meltdown at school last week at a Sydney primary school. Makayla is 9 years old, Autistic with Tourette’s, ADHD and anxiety.
Makayla and her mother Megan have felt let down by the lack of support available. Mikayla has a long history with Police in her 9 years of precious life. She has found herself sectioned under the mental health act, sedated in hospital, put in the back of paddy wagons, put in handcuffs and threatened with pepper spray. Makayla and her mother have bounced around with no real support from the education system.
Our young people’s needs are not being met, it is an all too familiar story. School is not designed for them. Many end up in jail or put in our mental health system with no real plan for genuine help. Most treatment strategies aim for the short term solution of medication, sedation and ultimately exclusion.
Despite policy rhetoric on “inclusive education” we find schools are putting our kids in the “too hard basket” As long as the education system focuses on academic achievement rather than learning, children will continue to be let down by our schools. Recent figures show school exclusions and suspensions are increasing. Our educators are calling on Police more frequently to assist them in on what they are calling “problematic” students. On reflection from onlookers, the actions of Police may seem necessary to protect other students and staff. However, what it fails to address is why the meltdown occurred in the first place. And while this act might seem like it is illegal, the NSW government allows it under the Mental Health Act.
There is also a lack of support for our teachers, who are reporting constraints on how and what they teach. With little or no discretion in how they assess students. Often those students, struggling with these grade driven results end up in our already strained mental health system or at worse, the criminal justice system. The stresses placed on them to conform becomes all too much.
Some have suggested that up to 30% off prisoners are autistic, although no official statistics have been recorded. What is fact is that Autistic individuals are twice as likely to commit suicide than that of the general population. To add to this mind-blowing statistic, the average life expectancy of someone on the autism spectrum is just 53 years old.
What can be done?
Isn’t now the time to make inclusive education a priority. We need to curb the increase in mental health sectioning and our kids because we have no other supports in place. If school is not working for our kids should we not look at school system? Is it worth loosing our kids over an outdated education system? All questions autistic advocates are spruiking although it seems to be falling on deaf ears.
As parents we do not want to overhaul the system for all kids, we just need flexible supports that work for our kids, to accommodate their disabilities and celebrate their neurodiversity rather than stifling and hiding it.
You can read Makayla and Megan’s story here. We advise that some of the footage may be disturbing and triggering. For this reason we have chosen not share the footage directly and to respect this young girl.