Israeli Autistic Kids Suspended From School Too Often, Parents Say

Parents also complain that schools are pushing medication with bad side effects instead of proper care for their children.

Yarden Skop
Yarden Skop
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Yarden Skop
Yarden Skop

Parents of autistic children are complaining that many schools suspend their children without proposing solutions for their behavioral problems.

In many cases, the children have no record of violent behavior, parents say, whether referring to students at special-education schools or in special-ed classes at regular schools.

“Every day, an hour and a half or two hours after the beginning of school, they call us to pick him up. With my work, it’s hard to impossible,” said H., a mother whose child has been diagnosed with high-functioning pervasive developmental disorder.

The Education Ministry says students are only suspended in extreme cases. But H. says her son, who studies in a special-ed class at a regular school, is sent home every day because he touches staff and other children.

“The alternative for my son for communication is touching. The boy doesn’t touch because he wants to hit or because he’s bad – that’s his way of communicating,” said H. “When the touch isn’t so much to their liking they immediately call us to pick him up. When I complained that this wasn’t okay, the teacher said she preferred that he left.”

When H. complained to the school administration, she was told she was “invited to leave.”

Many schools ask parents to give their children stronger medication to calm them down, said a number of parents with autistic children. “There was a period when we gave it to him and we saw it was bad for him,” said H. “We consulted with a psychiatrist and he told us to stop.”

Mor Brasky, the mother of a 19-year-old with high-functioning PDD and epilepsy, has had a similar experience.

“In some cases, the removal was justified in their eyes since my son had acted violently, but autistic children are sometimes violent. The school pressured us to opt for drug treatment, even though they’re not supposed to intervene,” Brasky said.

“When my child swells up because of the pills or throws up, it doesn’t bother them, as long as he’s quiet. If the school, the environment appropriate for him, can’t manage, how can I mange by myself?”

The Education Ministry said it acts according to its regulations crafted in 2010. According to these rules, suspensions only happen in extreme cases of violent behavior, and only after the educational and treatment process at school fails.

In most cases the student is suspended for medical reasons when the doctor, part of a multidisciplinary team, recommends this action, the ministry said. But this is done only after the regional supervisor for special education approves.

Parents of autistic children demonstrating in front of the education minister's house, August 2011.Credit: Moti Milrod

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