The beauty of being a PDAer and not adhering to or aligning with social hierarchies allows me to see people and situations for exactly what they are.
One year, on the first day of school, one of our girls came home excited. She said she'd had a wonderful day and couldn't wait to go back.
She was in Prep. First year, first day ever of school.
However, there had been a teacher that our daughter had recognised "felt unsafe".
We are often able to sense in another's energy and presence what lies beneath.
What they carry with them that is untouched, unseen, unheard, unhealed.
Our little girl had voiced that she needed some space, just a minute to sit away from her teacher and the activity, as she was feeling unwell (unsteady and unsafe).
The teacher dismissed her, demanding she rejoin the activity.
"I just told you I'm not feeling well and I need some space" said our girl, confused, not accustomed to not being heard or respected in her wisdom to know herself and what she needs.
Her educator then put her hands on the body of our child and forced her in the direction of the activity at her table.
Pushed her all the way across the room and back to the table.
A sensory activity that also felt uncomfortable and unsafe, escalating our little person's anxiety and panic.
"DO NOT put your hands on me without asking!" said she, with exclamation and certainty.
Here's the most devastating part to come next:
When retelling this story to her father and I at home, she then proceeded to tell us she didn't understand why this teacher was an angry person inside, but she saw that she needed to get her onside. She complied, moved to the activity, engaged with a sensory experience that felt unsafe for her and sat in fear, fawning and masking for the rest of the lesson.
"I wanted to make her happy, for her to like me and treat me with kindness like she was with the other students" she said.
I felt a mixture of sadness, anger, devastation and had my own trauma triggered in that moment.
How did we handle this as parents?
I called her regular teacher and relayed the story to her.
I then let her know that as a family we have ZERO TOLERANCE FOR VIOLENCE.
We must name it. Call it what it is.
Did I feel confident? No. I was shaking, anxious, terrified and angry.
Which emotional experience did I tap into?
I used my anger, that fire in my belly as my sacred ALLY.
That anger enters our being with purpose.
It propels the vulnerable into action where we may not be able to if it came from our heads and not our hearts.
WE HAVE A ZERO TOLERANCE FOR VIOLENCE IN OUR FAMILY.
I asked for a meeting with the Principal, the regular teacher, the wellbeing officer and the teacher who put her hands on our child.
When I arrived, I was met with the Principal and the regular teacher.
No wellbeing officer, no violent educator.
"Do you have any other strategies we can use for your daughter?" I was asked.
"If we are going to white wash this, be dishonest with each other and not address the actual situation, then we're all wasting each other's time" said my anger.
Shock spread across their faces, their heads pulled back into their necks.
Little, disapproved of, traumatised me was inside, noticing the energy of the room. She notices every time. Always has.
"I don't have strategies for adults that are incapable of hearing, respecting, and keeping their hands off of children. That's her job, to be responsible for herself. And it's your job, your duty of care to protect your students. I can't help you with that."
Yep. That's the truth. That's my truth, it's my child's truth and I won't move from it.
There are serious implications for violence against children.
As a fellow educator, to put my hands on a child, to dismiss their voice, to gaslight them is lazy, unskilled, cowardly, neglectful and abusive.
It's also an incredible insult to fellow educators and aides who work tirelessly; who go above and beyond to understand and accept our children and create learning spaces that are safe and nurturing for them.
We were offered solutions that worked for us.
We were treated with the respect we deserve.
We were given an apology.
As families, we CAN name it. Call it out. Those of us who have the privilege to.
IT IS VIOLENCE.
IT IS GASLIGHTING.
IT IS A VIOLATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS.
It is NOT a teacher, exhausted and without resources.
We are people. Our children are people. Vulnerable people.
When we strip away politics and semantics,
We are people.
Image Credit: Chandra Kanth
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