by Lisa Macafee
Word just came out that Governor Newsom is mandating public schools to stay closed until counties are not on watch for COVID-19.
While some of my teacher friends rejoiced because they will not have to be in contact with students, I spent a good long time last night crying.
I understand that COVID-19 presents serious risks and that steps need to be taken to minimize transmission. Our district had planned on a hybrid reopening that I feel would have allowed enough students to stay home to allow for precautions to be implemented.
It bothers me that the state does not seem to realize that many parents will now be endangering their children with no other option. Most of the guides assume that working parents can help their children with schoolwork around their own work hours, which also assumes that their children are over the age of 12 and can safely look after themselves while their parents are working.
“If schools don't reopen, will parents have to choose between jobs and kids?” Many parents don’t have the luxury to be able to quit their job without also losing their home, car, and needing to go on state assistance. So we are then forcing working parents to neglect their children, leaving young children home alone, or sending them to family members, or in very unlucky situations, sending children to un-trusted acquaintances. Rates of child abuse (including sexual abuse) are already rising. They will continue to rise.
Teen Vogue wrote about how “Distance Learning During Coronavirus Worsens Race, Class Inequality in Education”, but people seem unconcerned.
The Los Angeles Time said that “We can’t reopen the economy without child care”, but the economy is reopen for the most part. Being in a capitalist country that is not ready or willing to support those who cannot work in times of distress, we have to work.
I have been working from home. My employer has graciously said that I can work while caring for my kids, but how can I, really? My kids are 3 and 5. They and I are autistic. It has been okay for the last few months because my husband is a teacher and has been on Summer vacation and he has cared for the kids while I’m working. He is going “back” to work in August and will be expected to maintain a rigorous online learning environment, which will take a lot of work to make online learning meaningful for 8th graders.
When we are both working remotely from home, how the hell are we also supposed to care for our kids and ensure their learning? Our kids will be neglected.
We are currently the ones responsible for every single aspect of their growth and development. This is not normal or healthy for kids. Especially autistic kids.
We physically can’t provide speech-language therapy for my son who has communication delays, or occupational therapy for both to work on delays in fine motor control.
We don’t have the energy now to be able to provide all their online schooling needs. When we’re both working full-time with the kids running around in our hair, it’s an impossible situation.
I am already struggling with autistic burnout from too much stimuli. There are too many things happening at once. I can’t keep track of them all. There are too many noises happening from too many devices and too many people needed too many things from me at the same time.
Do I attend my screaming 3 year old who hit his head (again), or my 5 year old who wants apples sliced not whole, or my student on zoom who I am being paid to help? Which one is the most important?
Most nights after putting the kids to bed at 8pm I need to lie down. My body seems to cave in on itself, forcing me to stop. Some nights I can’t even talk to my partner because my brain is all done with peopling. Too much.
Being an autistic parent is hard enough. Being an autistic parent in COVID while working from home with my kids here and the expectation that I should be home-schooling them is impossible. My health is failing. Stupid fibromyalgia is making me unable to function anymore.
Here’s the thing.
I’m one of the lucky ones. I have family I can lean on if I need to and financial stability.
I will be okay, and my kids will not be physically abused. They’ll get way more screen time and way less socio-emotional growth than they should, but they’ll be okay.
Lots of kids won’t be if we don’t have school in Fall.
We need an on-campus option to care for our most vulnerable students.
Not for everybody, but for our students whose parents work and are unable to care for them at home.
For some special education students whose parents are unable to meet the needs of their children by themselves.
We need to think beyond what’s best for our own individual families and think about those most vulnerable.
One last story. When I was a young person, my mother worked about 70 hours per week to pay our bills. My father would come home and be responsible to “watch” me. But, my father was an alcoholic. He would come home, get drunk in the garage, watch TV, and pass out.
I cannot tell you how quickly I found (dangerous) ways to get out of the house. I dated older guys who had cars so I could get out. I started working at 15 to save for a car to get myself out. I started working full-time around 17, just to be out, really. I hung out with anyone who would pick me up and get me out. I had a severe drinking problem from age 15 through college because being home was untenable.
If I didn’t have school at this time, I don’t think I would have made it. Literally. A couple of my teachers gave me a couple of compliments that I built my life around. They may not have meant anything by it. They may have made the remarks offhand. But my life is built around being a “Deep Thinker” (thank you Dawn D’Amore) and being “good at Psychology” (thank you Art Jenkins). Without these two things, I very well could have ended up like some of my other friends. Good friends and good people who are dead.
Protect our kids. All of them. Not just yours. Please.
Hello friends! I would like to publish writings from myself and other people with autism as snapshots of how autism has affected them, since there are so many misconceptions and confusions about adults with autism.
Some background: I completed a 12 unit certificate program to be able to serve autistic students and am angry at how the program focused only on little boys as autistic and completely left out adults, the trans autistic population, and girls/ femmes/ women autistics. I am currently pursuing a PsyD to do more research on autism and gender.
Please contact me if you would like to add a story! If so, please send me your piece, publish name, title, and an image (can be a picture related to your content, your picture, an autism meme, etc).
I am interested in publishing this collection, because people don't know enough about us (but sure do assume a lot). Also on Facebook!
Lisa Macafee, autistic counselor with a hankering for social justice.