Editor’s Note: Update – since running this opinion piece, other views have surfaced. Please click here to read another opinion on this topic.
As a mom of boys with autism spectrum disorder, watching the video of little Caleb at his Thanksgiving program on Tuesday, November 15th, being refused the opportunity to participate with his classmates makes my skin crawl.
His parents posted the video on social media and almost immediately, it went viral. His mom, Amanda Riddle, has started a facebook group devoted to Caleb, called #TeamGobbleGobble, which has now been changed to #TeamCaleb.
In this particular video that was posted, you can see a woman grabbing the microphone before Caleb seen dressed as a little turkey has the chance to say his lines that he had practiced. For those of you with autistic children, you know how cruel this was, as Caleb had likely practiced these lines over the course of a few weeks and was not only excited to be included in something so important to the school, but he was probably also very nervous.
Harrison County Schools Superintendent Dr. Mark Manchin has told 5 News: “It’s a mistake that was made. There was no malice. This teacher, as all of our teachers, truly care about these young boys and girls. The program was over, at least as I understand, and the teacher had taken the microphone.”
If you watch the video as a parent I see the teacher purposefully not giving him a turn, regardless of the school’s program or not, Caleb should’ve been able to say “gobble gobble” – how much time could it have possibly taken for him to say those two words that he had been practicing for so long?
I had a chance to talk to Amanda Riddle, Caleb’s mom and she said as his mother she was heartbroken and horrified. She did however say, “nothing will take his sunshine away.”
I think the biggest reason that this upset me so deeply because this is an ever present issue that we have in the school system. We have teachers working with our sweet kiddos who just don’t know how to interact with them correctly. At the very least, some of our teachers are not being trained in how important equal opportunity is for our special needs kids and why it is so important that they are treated the same as much as they possibly can. Simply doing so helps to ensure that our children with special needs feel accepted and a part of the community that they strive so hard to be a part of. By taking the microphone away, the teacher also ripped away that child’s chance to feel as if he had a purpose – one of the biggest reasons we send our children to school in the first place.