• Sat, May 24 2008

5-year-old boy voted out of his class

Wendy Portillo, a teacher at Morningside Elementary in Port St. Lucie, Florida, let her kindergarten students say what they did not like about 5-year-old Alex Barton—–after which the students voted him out of the class. Alex is in the process of being diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome and has had “disciplinary issues” at school due to his disability, TC Palm.com reports. His mother, Melissa Barton, is considering legal action. Ballastexistenz comments on the “Survivor” mentality apparently at work in that Florida classroom and the exclusion of the disabled, and Asperger Square 8 posts about how you can contact the St. Lucie School Board (this is the email) and also Marcia Cully, the principal of Morningside Elementary.

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  • Linda

    Ugh: could things get any stranger??? Kindergarten class VOTING on a fellow student? What??? That in itself is bizarre.

  • http://gfcfexperience.blogspot.com Thomas

    Okay, so the aritcle at TcPalm states that the state attorney concluded that this doesn’t qualitfy for emotional child abuse?? The boy shakes andrefuese to go to school. He relives the incident every day. No…he’s not emotionally affected by this incident.

  • TomsMom

    Outrageous! I have just this minute sent an e-mail to the principal, and reproduce it here.

    The story of Mrs. Portillo and the 5-year-olds voting Alex Barton out of class is a repugnant example of anti-social behavior and adult bullying that should not be tolerated in any school, any where, at any time. I am the mother of a 6-year old with Asperger’s. He has been a particular challenge to his teachers since March. Despite his sometimes aggressive and often noncompliant behavior NEVER have they treated him with anything but respect and helpfulness. It is obvious that Mrs. Portillo needs training at the very least and possibly a psychological evaluation to deal with her own aggression and inability to handle frustration.

    I hope the Bartons get justice and satistifaction from the district, and the appropriate placement for Alex. He reminds me of Tommy so much!

  • Beth

    My email to the St. Lucie School board:
    To whom it may concern,
    The treatment of kindergarten student Alex Barton by his “teacher” Wendy Portillo is absolutely unacceptable. As the mother of a son with Asperger’s syndrome, I am sickened to hear about the way in which this child was publicly humiliated by this very sick woman. My son, now aged 9 and receiving proper special education services, struggled with behavioral problems in kindergarten, just like Alex. However, he was blessed to have a well educated, compassionate teacher who was interested in helping us identify my son’s educational and behavioral issues in order to locate an appropriate placement for him. Since beginning a special ed program in first grade, my son has flourished academically and his behavioral problems are now nonexistant.
    I recommend that you remove this woman from the classroom before she damages other children in the future. She has no place in this or any classroom or working with young children in any capacity.
    Elizabeth Costa

  • http://autismspectrumdisorders.bellaonline.com Bonnie Sayers

    Doesn’t Dennis Debbaudt live in Port St. Lucie? I wonder if he has made a statement about this?

  • http://autismspectrumdisorders.bellaonline.com Bonnie Sayers

    Dennis does live in St. Port Lucie, FL and his website is riskmanagement dot com. His email address, phone number and address are listed there, click on home at the page to find them.

  • http://www.autismvox.com Kristina Chew, PhD

    Dennis Debbaudt is in Port St. Lucie—-


    thanks, Bonnie.

    Sometimes I am not sure what country we are in! What kind of “teaching” is going on in that classroom…..

  • http://daisymayfattypants.blogspot.com Emily

    No matter what the child has done in that classroom, the teacher should be fired. Involving the children in her classroom in something like this is unprofessional in the extreme and should be grounds for dismissal. She has violated this child’s academic privacy (see FERPA regulations, which apply to any school in the US receiving public funds) and has left her district liable to a justifiable suit.

  • http://autismnaturalvariation.blogspot.com Joseph

    This is outrageous. But yeah, I think the teacher has been watching American Idol way too much.

    It’s turn for the school’s board to take a vote on the teacher.

  • http://treasuercoast.com mom

    I hope all parents take a stand on this issue not just the parents. It takes a villiage to raise a child.

  • http://daedalus2u.blogspot.com/ daedalus2u

    I think the parents of all the children in the class have a strong case against the teacher. I would be absolutely rip-shit if my child was in that class and was put in those circumstances. I would demand that the teacher be fired.

    5 year old children need to be protected from being used as props to hurt and injure others.

    The teacher does need to be fired and removed from the classroom. The children in the class need to know that what the teacher did (allow them to vote a child out of the class) was completely wrong and completely unacceptable.

    I think that no other remedy is appropriate. All the children in the classroom need to understand that treating a fellow human being that way is wrong and is unacceptable.

    The teacher should never be allowed to teach again. She has demonstrated herself to be morally unfit to be a teacher.

  • Theora

    Letter sent. I am still shaking with anger.

  • Mom of 7

    Absolutely without excuse or justification.

  • http://qwithyd.multiply.com/ chrisd

    The response of the state’s attorney is unbelievable. I would like to know what the criteria is for emotional abuse. Their response alone should make another article.

    And where is the principal and the staff to have taken care of this? Should they not have done something so that this child would not be in this teacher’s class?

    I do understand that teachers have a tough job. But this incident crossed the line into cruelty. If the district, the school board and the principal tolerate this and think that this is justifiable, then the whole lot should be fired.

  • Jo

    Bottom line–that teacher is an ignorant, irresponsible BULLY–and as such should be promptly “expelled” from the school system.

  • William

    Whats yer problem?

    The kids voted.

  • Shawn3k

    Yet another reason I’m thankful we moved from Florida before my son started school!!! This kind of thing should not be tolerated or taken lightly…and should be dealt with firmly.

  • Robert J. Stevens, Sr.

    That teacher is an idiot. Was she following the Florida Department of Education policy? If so, they are also idiots. If not, she needs to be fired.

  • http://beingammey.wordpress.com Ammey & mikel kohen

    I will be sending them an email.
    My son was completely ostracized in 2nd grade by all his classmates the year he was actuall being diagnosed with Aspergers as well. (Ironic) We had no idea why he was having issues, had never heard of Aspergers at that point but were acutely aware that he was having social issues and other communication problems. At one conference the teacher plainly stated that she did not know what was going on but that the while class had seemed to turn against my son. SO much so that she had to put a ‘plan” into action. It was a huge sheet of paper that had a list of 5 things to do before you tell the teacher on (my son).
    Now we understand that he was stimming by pulling at his shorts (we tried all different kinds of underwear because we did not understand) and the other kids were teasing him that he was masturbating. (yes, 2nd graders.) It was only while chaperoning a field trip that I saw all the little kiddies behaviors towards my son.
    I chose not to send him back the next year.
    He still at age 15 talks about that year as the worst year of his life. IMHO, if the aduts stepped up and protected him, it might not have been.

  • a long-time poster

    @ William
    For further reading:

  • http://stopthinkautism.blogspot.com/ S.L.

    This story should outrage every parent–whether their child is autistic or not. What really is going on inside our schools these days?

  • http://www.autismvox.com Kristina Chew, PhD

    Not education.

    And what can one say when it seems a teacher is in effect bullying a student?

  • http://beingammey.wordpress.com Ammey & mikel kohen

    I agree. Both my boys are higher functioning on the Autism Spectrum. I cannot stereotype educators or the system but I can say in my experience, many general ed teachers have had a similar kind of attitude towards my boys. Especially how their peers tolerance of their diagnosis & behaviors is handled (or not handled).

    After one son was recently choked the 4th time by the same boy, the social worker at the school said maybe it will teach my son that his noise making will cause a negative response in society. I responded that choking him will not only have no influence on his noise making but it will only cause him greater social difficulties. Duh. Just ignorance.

    This teacher seems to have felt his behaviors were willfull possibly but even if she thought so, her actions to humiliate a small child in front of his peers and remove him from his own class, was malicious to put it mildly. Any adult can comprehend how damaging that is. Completely unacceptable and she should be held acountable.

  • http://theautisticme.blogspot.com/ C. S. Wyatt

    Apparently little has changed since I was in elementary school. Teachers were far worse than the students; I still remember their comments — I can hear the voices telling my parents I would never amount to much.

    I hope that when I finish writing my own story, which has footnotes on educational theory, it will help the next generation of teachers. Unfortunately, my absolutely horrible experiences at the university the last two years give me little hope. The professors training future teachers aren’t all that understanding.

  • http://www.autismvox.com Kristina Chew, PhD

    I think I will more than need to read your book……

  • http://autismspectrumdisorders.bellaonline.com Bonnie Sayers

    Dennis will be back in town on Friday and will check into this issue.

  • http://autismnaturalvariation.blogspot.com Joseph

    I’m not sure if this has been noted, but there’s a case to be made that the teacher gave the kid PTSD.

    Thursday night, his mother heard him saying “I’m not special” over and over.

    Sounds like PTSD to me.

  • http://www.beingammey.wordpress.com Ammey

    I remembered the poem All I ever needed to know, I learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum. It really says a mouthful.

    “Most of what I really need to know about how to live, and what to do, and how to be, I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate school mountain, but there in the sand box at nursery school.

    These are the things I learned. Share everything. Play fair. Don’t hit people. Put things back where you found them. Clean up your own mess. Don’t take things that aren’t yours. Say you are sorry when you hurt somebody. Wash your hands before you eat. Flush. Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you. Live a balanced life. Learn some and think some and draw some and paint and sing and dance and play and work everyday.

    Take a nap every afternoon. When you go out in the world, watch for traffic, hold hands, and stick together. Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the plastic cup? The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why. We are like that.

    And then remember that book about Dick and Jane and the first word you learned, the biggest word of all: LOOK! Everything you need to know is there somewhere. The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation, ecology, and politics and the sane living.

    Think of what a better world it would be if we all, the whole world, had cookies and milk about 3 o’clock every afternoon and then lay down with our blankets for a nap. Or we had a basic policy in our nation and other nations to always put things back where we found them and clean up our own messes. And it is still true, no matter how old you are, when you go out in the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.”

  • http://www.autismvox.com Kristina Chew, PhD

    Thanks for quoting all—-the Golden Rule was not in operation in that classroom as Morningside Elementary.

    And it sounds like he may have already had lots of reason to have PTSD even before getting the “Survivor” treatment.

  • http://beingammey.wordpress.com Ammey & mikel kohen

    You are welcome. I know it’s long but it speaks to the situation so clearly. I just sent my email.
    I got a great set of contact info from stop. think. autism.’s post. I put it on my blog too, it’s about 5 different emails.

  • Jane

    Other than being a bully, the teacher is also in violation of the kid’s civil liberty.

  • http://www.autismvox.com Kristina Chew, PhD

    And, from what other parents have noted here, there are far more positive — and educational — strategies for helping a child address these issues.

  • http://mikestanton.wordpress.com mike stanton

    Christschool has done a masterful job of compiling draft letters of complaint to the authorities and the media over at Thinking in Metaphors. Anyone who wants to use them please let Christschool know and also forward copies to ASAN who are trying to coordinate responses.

  • John

    Jane’s comment touched on my thoughts exactly. Where is the ACLU for people like us? The teacher violated the civil rights of the boy and his parents by removing his constitutional right to equal education through this abusive vote. She abused the boy, his parents and actually every kid in that classroom. The kindergarteners acted on raw peer pressure, under her instruction. Other kids may also have some measure of PTSD if they later reflect on what they did to that 5yo boy; this was no lesson kindergarten lesson.

  • http://fragilex.wordpress.com FXSmom

    Well…so much for teaching the golden rule!! This is just ridiculous. Nice job spreading the hate teach!

  • Theresa Jett

    While I live in VA, I truly think that this is a national outrage; legal action should most definitely be taken. There are laws out there to protect special needs children and ethical guidelines the educators follow, and the lines have been crossed. This is a prime example of why I home school my own children, it is incomprehensible how an individual who has dedicated their life to educating children could set such a psychologically detrimental example involving the impressionable minds of kindergarten students. She should not just be fired from this particular school, but complete loss of all educational licensing is warranted, as well as legal action being placed against the school and any of the staff that have justified her actions. Poor Alex and family, our hearts and prays in VA are with you.

  • Linda Sue Taylor

    I would openly welcome a reply from the mother of Alex. I may have some valuable information for her. lindasuetaylorprayer@yahoo.com

  • jamie

    I have a 4 year old nephew diagnosed with autisim just a few years ago. the teachers he has for pre-k are wonderful with him. i don’t know why people in this world need to be so ignorant to our handicaped children. they are our future too. i always though you send your child to school to get an education in anyway possible and that the teachers where there to help the children that really needed it the most. This teacher that had her students “vote” their classmate out is just outragous. She should be dismissed from the school system and her teaching certificate revoked. Teachers are ment to help children not discriminate. Involving her students in the decision to remove Alex from the classroom is more then unfair to those kids and to Alex. Those poor kids don’t relize what they have done. They don’t understand the decision they made is one that affects Alex in more ways then they know. To all those children that were forced to “Vote” their fellow classmate out, I hope parents are trying their hardest to explain to their child why they should not descriminate against anyone, young or old, classmate or teacher. Everyone is the same inside, human.

  • Rebecca Grogan

    I am so pissed off about this situation. I am the mother of a 7 year old Autistic son. I cannot imagine this happening to my child. The teacher of this class abused her authority to teach these children that being different is not accepted. I am just sick about this!!! I feel that she should be charged w/ a civil rights violation and should NEVER be allowed to have contact w/ children again!!! For a 5 year old child to cry and ask his mother why he is different and why the other children don’t like him, breaks my heart. This should not happen to ANY child.

  • Deborah

    I am a ddsd worker in Oklahoma and work with disabled children and adults every day, It is a great joy to me and this is an outrage! For an adult to use a childs peers to express their own feelings of dislike for working with a disabled child is just wrong in so many ways I cant express them all. Alex or (any other child with this experience under his belt) will be haunted by this for many years to come!
    A definant message should be sent that this kind of behavior from an adult in charge of young minds will not be tolerated.

  • Christa

    I’m the mother of a 11 year old Autistic son and this teacher’s behavior is unacceptable. I think she just needs a good butt kicking. The children have a hard enough time with peers and school then starting off his first year of school being bullied by someone that a child should be able to trust. I think that she should be fired and what ever else that can be done tho teach her a lesson!!!!

  • Michelle

    This is the letter i emailed to the school board

    I am a student at Augsburg College in Minneapolis Minnesota enrolled in the teaching program. I read the news about the little boy that was voted out of his kindergarten class.

    I was appalled and horrified, that you would have an educator such as this in you’re employment. This monster in your school, is in charge of the most precious gift we have, young children. Whether this child is special needs or not shouldn’t be the issue. This child is a person, with thoughts, and feelings, how dare someone that is in charge of shaping little minds, and is supposed to be there to teach, mold, and protect these little lives, do something so nasty and devastating.

    I would only hope that your school board would have the integrity to have this person step down. She should also have her licensure taken away. I wouldn’t let her watch my dog, let alone teach my child.


    Michelle Bolkcom

  • rena

    How dare she!!! What right did she have to hurt Alex ? this so called “teacher” should be banned from ever having contact with children again!! The parents in that school should ban together and get her out of there. Who’s to say next time she won’t do the same thing because of the way a child looks or speaks. Put her name out there so all know who she is and can keep there children safe from her.

  • Robert Boatner

    I know what you are going thru and how you feel. I also have a child with special needs. I know know the cruel and unusal punishment he has went thru from school and other people he has went thru. I dont feel that any child should have to go thru that kind of torment whether they have special needs or not. It makes me me very angry to think they let a teacher do that to a child and allow her to remain in the classroom. She should have her license pulled and be made to work at Mcdonalds because she has no wits about her. Our prayers and thoughts go out to you. God be with you and your son.

  • http://www.autismvox.com Kristina Chew, PhD

    And one has to wonder if this kind of “teaching” (Survivor voting out the “unpopular” child) was not just an isolated incident in the classroom. What other kinds of “lessons” were the children learning? I have to second John’s comment about the potential PTSD effects of this on all the children.

    Christschool‘s post is very detailed, with mention of the Florida child abuse laws.

  • Rachel

    I’ve also sent an email. The more emails sent the better. Wendy Portillo should be fired and her teacher’s license taken. She doesn’t belong anywhere near children!

    my email:

    I was watching the CBS morning show today and was absolutely shocked at the story of Wendy Portillo, a kindergarten teacher at your school, who literally tortured a five-year-old special needs student. Alex was interviewed with his mom. He’s a beautiful child and even if he was a monster a teacher should have more maturity than a five-year-old when it comes to dealing with her frustrations. There is absolutely NO reason for her behavior. Not only has she damaged poor Alex, but think of the consequences to the other children in the classroom.

    I heard another story yesterday of a grandmother her accidentally ran over her two-year-old grandson. How absolutely horrible! The grandmother can barely live with herself. I can’t imagine what the other five-year-olds in this classroom will experience. I see very little difference between this grandmother and the situation you have allowed at your school. As a parent of 6 children (one being five) I am extremely heart-sick for Alex.

    Wendy Portillo should be dismissed immediately and her teacher’s license revoked. She has no place being around children. Tell her to go work at Taco Bell!

  • Lorraine

    I was and assistant in a Pre-school Program for Children with Handicapping conditions (PPCD) for 11 years.
    Trust me when I say that (where I was) this would not have been put up with. The teacher would be gone. The assistant would be gone as well, for letting it happen without report.
    For this to be called “not mentally abusive” is absured. Young children have the most impressionable minds of all and to be intimidated, bullied, made fun of and many more abuses that happened here by your peers is bad enough. But NO, the teacher headed it up! Paraded it on!
    I do know what it feels like to have a teacher (someone you look up to) insult you in front of a class full of people you already have problems with. It NEVER GOES AWAY!! Yes, you learn to “deal” with it, but the scar is there and no one but you knows how it affected you personally.

    Yes, legal action is required here. The teacher needs to be dismissed, unlicensed and required to admit to and apologize for what she did to the child with parents there and in a public forum.
    Mean, you think? No meaner than what she did to a 5 year old!


  • Terri L. Baxter


  • Renee

    Our school systems need to weed out teachers like this. To teach 5 year olds that if you are different you can be voted out. I wonder how many of those children in the class are worried that they will be voted out next if they seem different to the teacher in anyway. She needs to be removed immediately before more children are damaged. I saw Alex on TV this morning – how could someone do that to him. He was hurt by this and it is child abuse.

  • http://AutismVox Suzie Murphy

    This is truly a sad story! What kind of people are really teaching our kids and what are they really teaching them? This makes me so angry that school system did not jump to this child’s defense. What is it going to take to get this country to WAKE UP!!!!! All of our children have to be taught to treat every child with respect no matter what their needs are. I don’t care if there were to be a child a horn growing out its head, they need to be treated the same and taught accordingly to their needs. I am so sorry that the parents of this child have had to endure this pain. My prayers will be with this entire family.

  • http://AUTISMVOX faye

    i know its not the same but my child had cystic fibrous not only did the teacher and her friends [the students] accept her with open arms they allowed me to have an open dicusstion with them about her condition and the equipment she used at home and in class when she passed away we had the funerl on saterday and not one child missed it.that is how a TRUE TEACHER and CLASSMATES RESPOND.What that person did(i cant bring myself to call her a teacher because SHE IS NOT!)IS crimal she DISCRIMINATED, CORRUPTED MINERS, MISSUSED HER ATHOURTY and ENDANGERED A CHILD not to mention SCARED him for LIFE. Not only should she be FIRED she should be LOCKED UP! Thank God Alex has been blessed with such a wonderful mother! BLESSINGS TO BOTH MOM AND ALEX!

  • Adam Kralic

    Anyone imagine that the child was EXTREMELY bad? A) He was not diagnosed with Autism or anything else at the time. So all headlines with “Autistic boy…” are sensationalist.

    He might just be a super brat of epic proportions. He might have NO “conditions” If he exposed himself, swore repeatedly, hit students, deficated on the floor…and the teacher just couldn’t take it anymore…would that teacher still be horrible? So quick to judge with so little information. Shame on all of you.


  • Adam Kralic


    and why exactly should MY child be exposed to such a trouble maker? You ever teach? I taught English to foreign children every summer during college. 99.9% of them were absolute angels….but one bad child DESTROYS all hope of getting that day’s lessons into the heads of every other student.

    But no lets witch hunt the teacher before all facts are in. WE know it all. The teacher was obviously the anti-christ and should have her life destroyed.

    - Adam

  • http://AUTISMVOX faye

    I wonder how this person treats the children in her family! should childrens protective services be notified!?!

  • http://AUTISMVOX faye

    i dont give a rats ass HOW disruptive a child is! healthy or not YOU DO NOT TREAT PEOPLE THAT WAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • A Mom with Asperger’s child

    That woman should be removed IMMEDIATELY!!!!! I wouldn’t even let her get close to any child!!!
    Who knows what she seas and does to the kids when nobody (adult) is around!
    It makes me sick to my stomach!!
    My son has Asperger’s, and when he started kindergarten last year, because behavior problems
    we went thru hell until they tested him, got the diagnosis and the pchichalogist straitened the teachers out! The teachers mistreated him every day! Thank God I was present on a daily basis at the school as a volunteer, I witnessed a lot of things that I wouldn’t know about if I wasn’t there! Sometimes you just have to listen to your child!!!
    My son was scared to go back to school this year and terrified when he heard the word “office” since he spent a lot of time there.
    They put him on ESE program which protects his/our rights!!!
    My son is a good boy! He had a hard time to follow direction and stay focused that’s why he was in trouble all the time. The teachers were very insensitive and he was crying every day!
    Since they know how to “handle” him PROPERLY there is hardly any problem this year and also he matured a lot. He got an awesome teacher for 1st grade.
    You have to CHOOSE carefully who teaches your son next year (not in this school of course!), THEY ARE HAVE TO WORK WITH YOU!!!!!
    Be strong for him!!!
    Good luck!!!

  • Adam Kralic

    “i dont give a rats ass HOW disruptive a child is! healthy or not YOU DO NOT TREAT PEOPLE THAT WAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

    Well then she should’ve just not taught. Let him control the class and read a romance novel until the bell rang. She might not win teacher of the year…but she’d also not be called the anti-christ.

  • Carlene

    This woman is not only a awful teacher, she is a awful human being.
    She needs to apologize to this young boy….and then she needs to be voted out of the school system.

  • A Mom with Asperger’s child

    That woman should be removed IMMEDIATELY!!!!! I wouldn’t even let her get close to any child!!!
    Who knows what she seas and does to the kids when nobody (adult) is around!
    It makes me sick to my stomach!!
    My son has Asperger’s, and when he started kindergarten last year, because behavior problems
    we went thru hell until they tested him, got the diagnosis and the pchichalogist straitened the teachers out! The teachers mistreated him every day! Thank God I was present on a daily basis at the school as a volunteer, I witnessed a lot of things that I wouldn’t know about if I wasn’t there! Sometimes you just have to listen to your child!!!
    My son was scared to go back to school this year and terrified when he heard the word “office” since he spent a lot of time there.
    They put him on ESE program which protects his/our rights!!!
    My son is a good boy! He had a hard time to follow direction and stay focused that’s why he was in trouble all the time. The teachers were very insensitive and he was crying every day!
    Since they know how to “handle” him PROPERLY there is hardly any problem this year and also he matured a lot. He got an awesome teacher for 1st grade.
    You have to CHOOSE carefully who teaches your son next year (not in this school of course!), THEY ARE HAVE TO WORK WITH YOU!!!!!
    Be strong for him!!!
    Good luck!!!


    This teacher shouldn’t teach young kids!!!
    Obviously this boy had problems that’s why they are started the process of testing, still….there are many other way to treat this issue but I don’t mean the treatment she did!
    As a parent of an Asperger’s child trust me I know what I’m talking about!
    They need discipline but they need to be approached differently than other children!
    My son reacts more positively when he is awarded not punished, as soon as they are started that he was a different child!

  • http://www.autismvox.com Kristina Chew, PhD

    This story brought to mind some things that happened to my husband in 1960s Catholic school. One boy must have had some kind of learning disability and he could just never get the lessons in reading and everything. My husband already knew how to read at the age of 4 and the nuns would have him read in front of the class—-and then point out how the other boy could not do it.

    Great way to set the students against each other.

  • Lori York

    I saw this story this mornind on the Early Show and I was appauled by this. We wonder why children are so mean it’s because society make them that way. If I was this mother I would have someone’s job…I would set an example with her and go on down the line. This should not be acceptable!!

  • http://www.autismvox.com Kristina Chew, PhD

    As a teacher myself—-of college students—-the notion of having other students “vote out” one student is preposterous for any age of students, that’s for sure.

  • HCN

    Update: the teacher has been removed from the classroom and the district is investigating:

  • http://www.autismvox.com Kristina Chew, PhD

    Thanks—kind of seems that they should have done this earlier.

  • http://stopthinkautism.blogspot.com/ S.L.

    It’s about time! I was reading some of the comments people were making on this news story…really makes me lose hope for this world (things like this child just needs a beating, applause for this teacher, blaming the parents, on and on). Interested to see how this proceeds. Whatever happens to this teacher, the school, etc., Alex may never be able to fully recover from this. That is biggest shame of this entire case.

  • Lawrence C

    Hey Adam Kralic-

    You said “He might just be a super brat of epic proportions. He might have NO “conditions” If he exposed himself, swore repeatedly, hit students, deficated on the floor…and the teacher just couldn’t take it anymore…would that teacher still be horrible? So quick to judge with so little information. Shame on all of you.”– BUT – AS FAR AS WE ALL KNOW- HE DID NOT DO ANY OF THOSE THINGS YOU HYPOTHETICALLY MENTIONED. So, in your own words, shame on you for being quick to judge with NO INFORMATION. But what we DO KNOW is what teacher Portillo did. I’ve heard enough to judge her.

    In response to your question “why exactly should MY child be exposed to such a trouble maker?”- The answer is because public schools are for all kids. If you don’t want your kid exposed to all kids, you can pay the money for a private school. I’m sure you will find one that does not admit autistic kids. Or maybe you can go to your next town meeting and convince your fellow taxpayers to pay for a separate autistic school? Or maybe you can persuade your insurance company to pay for private education for autistic kids? Yes, Adam, someday if you are in a bad accident or develop a medical condition that requires care, the rest of us will take care of you with our tax dollars and our insurance premiums. Therefore, the same should be true for autistic kids and anyone else requiring assitance. Welcome to the United States. If you don’t like it, move to some other country.

  • http://beingammey.wordpress.com Ammey & mikel kohen

    In response to Adam Kralic. Who said much more than…
    “I taught English to foreign children…”

    The rights of all students are protected, even those with plain old run of the mill behavioral issues. That is why there is such a thing as a Behavior Suport/Intervention Plan. It gives a list of steps that must be followed to address a child’s behavioral issues. (To protect the child and others) Step 1 is usually to redirect, if they do not redirect then you move to step 2, and so on. For my son, the last step was to call me and remove him from the class. It did not include humiliation as a step or peer rejection as a form of dicipline.

    This teachers antics on managing the childs behaviors were wrong and abusive regardless of his “official diagnosis”. Once a child has an IEP or 504 plan the ball is rolling and the teacher is federally mandated to address his behavior and/or unique needs through appropriate and legal means. She obviously did not follow IDEA laws, or the laws of the heart either. SHE needed a time out!

    There is never anyone who would put her actions in writing on a behavior support/intervention plan because it is not effective, it is harmful and it is illegal.

  • ASDmomNC

    I sent emails to both the principal and the superintendent. Stories like this make me both thankful and fearful. Thankful for my son’s wonderful beyond words teacher and aide, and fearful for what will happen if he is mainstreamed for kindergarten, like the school says they want to do (I am opposed to it, he is not ready).

    I hope Ms. Portillo is ashamed to show her face in public and feels the same shame and humiliation that she had heaped upon poor little Alex.

  • http://yahoo pamela kurtz

    couls someone please leave me a link to the emailof that school-theone above doesnt seem to work for me-me amd many ohers have a few words for that school

  • A Mom with Asperger’s child

    Lawrence C, Ammey & mikel kohen, ASDmomNC well said!

    I think what happened is definitely going to leave a scar, but Alex is young (looked like he is happy) boy and with a lot of positive reinforcement he is going to be fine.
    My son is OK now after last year, thanks for his new wonderful teacher who is constantly keep us informed what is happening in the class room.
    Communication between teacher & parents is one of the key of a successful student IMO.

  • http://daisymayfattypants.blogspot.com Emily

    @Adam Kralic–It doesn’t matter if the child was a nascent Attila the Hun. What the teacher did was systematically sadistic and stupid, and she should lose her job and her license over it. She violated her profession’s ethics, and she violated federal law. She had plenty of choices for reasonable recourse, and she elected instead to sadistically humiliate and emotionally torture a five-year-old. Whether he was diagnosed or not is irrelevant, although the fact that he had an IEP and that his teacher had attended the meetings exposes her to legal ramifications for her actions.

    I have taught children and adults of all ages, including several years teaching middle school. I know the spectrum of behaviors that children exhibit. I know the frustrations of being a teacher. And I know sadism and egregiously unprofessional behavior when I see it in another member of my profession. Even if that child had dropped trou and shat on her desk, she would not have been justified in the route she chose. This was not a momentary lapse. This was not an error made in blind frustration. What she did was calculated, drawn-out, and intentional emotional torture of a five-year-old child, and she should have to bear the consequences.

  • http://www.autismvox.com Kristina Chew, PhD

    Here’s some contact info:

    Morningside Elementary School Principal:
    Mrs. Marcia Cully
    (772) 337-6730

    St. Lucie County Schools Superintendent:
    Michael J. Lannon
    4204 Okeechobee Road
    Ft. Pierce, FL 34947-5414
    Phone: 772/429-3925
    FAX: 772/429-3916

    St. Lucie County School Board Chair:
    Carol Hilson

    Vice Chair:
    Judith Miller

  • http://www.autismvox.com Kristina Chew, PhD

    From this website, there are links to a petition and also a video of Alex’s mother.


  • http://www.autismvox.com Kristina Chew, PhD

    An article in the Scripps News service contains no new information but a question in the title, which is:

    How about a vote to fire the teacher?

  • Bonnie

    What if it was her child or yours Adam???
    What happened makes me sick. Luckily Alex was able to tell his mom what happened what about the children who cannot speak teachers are there to protect our children not abuse them.

  • http://autismspectrumdisorders.bellaonline.com Bonnie Sayers

    The first comment on the cbs link just posted is a nasty one from a teacher and a real eye opener on what a child included must go through and I am glad my son is homeschooled. The fifth grade teacher was clueless on autism and did not get my son at all.

    No amount of social skills groups can prepare kids on the spectrum for this type of reaction that comes from teachers, aides and their peers.

  • http://beingammey.wordpress.com Ammey & mikel kohen

    I agree Bonnie. Thanks K. Chew for posting the link to the video.

  • ASDmomNC

    Here’s a gem of a comment from the cbs12 link you posted, Kristina:

    lowpaidteacher wrote:
    EVERY parent of an obnoxious kid claims disability of some sort or blames his/her behavior on everything BUT their own kid’s behavior! WHAT about the rights of the “NORMAL” kids in the class to learn without interruption?!! PARENTS of THESE kids stand up for once!! This teacher was probably SICK of all the interuptions and behavior issues from this kid. I DONT blame her and it was probably blown out of proportion! Our REGULAR kids deserve to learn without all of the mess behavior problems add to the class regardless of the reasons- disability or NOT!!!!! ENOUGH already! The schools are SO worried about making sure THOSE kids have “equal education” that ALL the others suffer, believe me they DO!
    5/27/2008 1:00:42 PM

    Unfortunately, this attitude is commonplace amongst teachers. My friends who are teachers have told me many horror stories of their colleagues relating similar feelings about special needs children to them. Funny how all they always refer to them as “THOSE” children.

  • Deniece

    I am so ashamed to say I am a native Floridian! To have some of the teachers that are teaching our children is appalling !! I want to know when this teacher (so called) was given a license to practice physcology? She said ” This was her way of correcting his behaviour” What a jerk She needs to be kicked out of the system!

  • nicole p

    I have a response to Adam Kralic’s comments…

    While on the one hand I can agree that disruptive behavior in a classroom is unfair to other students, it seems to me that any rational adult would understand that this is not the way to resolve such behavior. When you get into a fight with your wife or girlfriend, do you call her stupid and then vote her out of the house?

    Read the other comments on this page. The majority of the people here have a good ol’ fashioned American education…and sadly, very few of them seem to have even an elementary grasp of grammar or simple spelling. Case in point: the girl who is in college studying to be a teacher. A TEACHER. And yet her email was riddled with errors.

    What this tells me is that we are not educating our teachers properly in either their subjects OR in child development and discipline. IMHO at least 80% of the teachers in the public education system ARE NOT qualified to be teaching our children. They take a few classes, pass a few tests, and voila, we expect them to encourage our children’s physical and mental growth.

    THEREFORE, it appears to me that this teacher was not trained properly how to deal with children. Childhood disabilities should be required material in any teacher training, as well as strategies to help and encourage the child and family.

    I can only assume that this woman is a complete moron, with little understanding of the influence her position has on children. I agree that she should be sacked…at the very least it is her DUTY to begin working with the parents and the school when a child begins to show behavioral problems. And if she doesn’t like that, well, as one comment said, she can go work for Taco Bell.

    All of this said…I have a nephew with speech difficulties due to a birth defect. He has been fortunate to have had wonderful teachers working with him on it. As far as I know he doesn’t get bullied for it, but he knows he sounds different and he made a comment that he “sounds funny one day.” My nephew is extremely intelligent and has an incredibly sweet heart….and if I heard that that a teacher had done something like this to him, and the school board refused to place responsibility….well….I’d jump that b***h in the parking lot.

  • pissed off mom

    I am in such shock and disbelief. I dont know who to feel for more the parents or the teacher, I have a child with autism and cannot begin to explain the JOY and sorrow that comes with being a special needs parent. This teacher needs to learn patience and TOLERANCE – you do not teach 5 year olds to discriminate against others for being different – I have had to wait all day to write this so I wouldn’t sound like the teacher, maybe she doesn’t know how to treat children with human kindness, respect and decencey. I keep trying to find an excuse for her but there is NO EXCUSE for the way the teacher handled this, she should publicly apoligize to Alex and his family, find other employment and do some community service with the special needs population, then maybe she’ll be able to find forgiveness for herself – she has to live with the way she treated Alex for the rest of her life and I hope she can survive the embarassment she caused herself. Maybe she can learn a vaulable lesson from this because people are judging her the way she judged Alex. Shall we take a vote!!!!!

  • Adam Kralic

    Well I am the magnet for love here it would seem. I wanted to call attention to the fact that quite often people rush to judge in these matters before hearing the other side of the story. I can appreciate that many here have special needs children…and do not wish to imply ill-will towards your particular child.

    BUT…we really only have a sensationalist snippet of a story to go on. Even then it has been polished to look as horrible as possible. The child said that the teacher asked who hates ______? Did the teacher word it so? Maybe the question was “Who feels _______ is disrupting the class and how is ______’s behavior affecting you?” I realize that EVERY child has rights. No child is more important than another. All deserve an education first and foremost.

    If a child is hindering every other child’s education repeatedly…they should be removed from the class. Period. The Mother commented there was problems at his last school but not in pre-school…(he’s 5 right?) What were the problems and why is the child no longer attending that school?

    I do apologize if my comments were taken as insulting…that was not my “goal”.

  • Wendy

    When I heard this story on CBS’ the Early Show this morning, my jaw dropped. What this teacher has done is nothing short of discrimination and is teaching her students intolerance and that picking on someone because he/she is different is okay. Shame on her. I really hope that those higher up get hold of this and deal with the situation head on. As a daycare provider, I’d be out of a job if I had done this. Truly Appalling!!

  • Chuck

    Maybe the question was “Who feels _______ is disrupting the class and how is ______’s behavior affecting you?”

    Justify how THAT is any better then “The child said that the teacher asked who hates ______?”

    Then justify how solidifying negative peer pressure by mob rule votes of kindergarteners fosters a positive learning environment for anyone in that classroom.

  • Adam Kralic

    “Maybe the question was “Who feels _______ is disrupting the class and how is ______’s behavior affecting you?”

    Justify how THAT is any better then “The child said that the teacher asked who hates ______?”

    Then justify how solidifying negative peer pressure by mob rule votes of kindergarteners fosters a positive learning environment for anyone in that classroom.”

    Simple. One way is purely negative…the other way allows for positive learning. A child should know their actions have consequences. It is NEVER too early to let them know this.

    Ultimately I believe children are little adults. In the real world people do judge you on your actions. Acting out for any reason should not be tolerated and it is better to see that people your own age do not like this behavior any more than do authority figures.

    I do not know exactly how the teacher handled this other than what a 5 year old with behavioral problems said. The teacher confirmed that there was a vote…nothing more. Did not say how it was worded. Did not confirm or deny anything any student said. Did not mention how often she reported the child to the principal previously. Did not mention how the principal instructed her to handle the situation in the future. Did not mention how many times the Mother was contacted about the behavior issues. But they were bad enough to get the child kicked out of one school in less than a year’s time apparently. (simple math in deducting that)

    Taken at face value…yes the teacher handled the situation poorly.

    You are willing to get a person fired without knowing the whole story.


  • Tara


    fact that “in the real world people do judge you on your actions” is the clincher. Yes, here we all are, judging the teacher based on her reported actions and yes, seeing how none of us was there in the first place, we do rely on reporting and hearsay… Call me cynical, but I am not sure we’ll get very objective other side of the story out of the teacher, either.

    When it comes to understanding that we are judged based on our actions I am willing to give far more leeway to 5 year old child (autistic or not) than to an adult who is also a teacher. I do not agree that children are little adults – I think there are very few 5 year olds who will not succumb to either the peer pressure or to the authority pressure in this kind of situation. It is part of being the social animal. I’ll even venture to say (and I am only half joking) that 5 year old who votes solely based on his/her conscience in this situation either has uncommonly strong moral and/or religious upbringing or is also on the autistic spectrum.

  • http://dancingmom.livejournal.com/ Karen

    Children are NOT little adults. Anyone with any knowledge of child development will confirm this. The behavior of small children often points to their development and where they are currently, whether they are disabled or not. Every 5 year old is not the same. I have never known humiliation to be a teaching tool.

    A kindergarten class is not a reality show. There is NO reason a teacher would ever have the class vote on the way they feel about a child and then allow each child to stand up and tell the child and the rest of the class how he or she feels about a fellow student, knowing full well all the comments will be negative.

    Even is Ms. Portillo has used other avenues to get help for managing her classroom with regards to Alex (and I’ve got a 7 year-old on the spectrum and I know it’s not easy, I’m not saying her job is easy!), there is no reason I can figure that would point to it ending the way she chose. I’m sorry if she was overwhelmed and untrained. That is not a good reason to humiliate a child.

    To say she handled the situation ‘poorly’ is a HUGE understatement. She had the power, the students had none and she manipulated all of them. It’s very sad.

  • http://beingammey.wordpress.com Ammey & mikel kohen

    That is assuming that the child’s behaviors are wilfull by design. A boy has been choking my 11 year old in school (4 times, around the neck, squeezing his neck) because he was annoyed by his repetitive noise making. My son is not in control of his vocalisations, so choking him or holding a gun to his head or humiliating him in front of his peers , jeesh, none of those things could make him stop.
    The “message” you are implying ASD kids might get from being ostracized falls on their “deaf” ears. You are talking about a child with a developmental disorder.
    This makes me cry. This is almost the same thing the social worker said at the school. It’s like a “If they don’t get it we’ll beat it into them.” mentality. That might teach that kid a lesson, wow. What a detatched attitude.

  • http://storkdok-nos.blogspot.com/ Storkdok

    @Adam, the brain is not even neurologically developed into a mature adult stage until the mid-20′s, so you are wrong about children being “mini-adults”. You should do some basic research in child development and neurology before you make ignorant statements.

    No child, even NT, no matter what their behavior, should ever be treated in such a calculated manner as to humiliate them in front of the class. It is unprofessional. It is immoral and unethical. I suspect she will face a lawsuit, but it will be of her own making. She made her own bed, now she needs to lie down in it.

  • Adam Kralic

    I have a child who is seven. He is extremely well behaved and has manners. All the teachers call him a model student. Did I get lucky? No. I treat him like a small adult. You do not need a degree in child development to rear a well behaved child. Children were raised successfully for 10′s of thousands of years before such a degree existed. How quickly we forget. He knows right from wrong…good from bad. Ultimately I take responsibility for his actions. IF he acted like Alex…he’d be in a special needs school. Do I need to work two jobs to make it so? If I do…guess what? I get a 2nd job. IF I had to home school him after work…I would. Whatever it took. It is MY responsibility. Not the state’s. I expect a call if he misbehaves. That is their sole responsibility besides education.

    To the parent whose child is being choked…That happened to my son once. I paid for the school and let them know in no uncertain terms that I would immediately withdraw my son and seek legal council should the offending student not be removed immediately. He was.

  • Adam Kralic

    Listen I am not “for” the public humilation of a child. But on the flip side I am not “for” a student with extreme disorders be they diagnosed or not…ruining the education of everyone else.

    Now if this parent wins 10 million dollars because of the emotional distress caused…there will be 500 new cases in a week.

  • Tracey

    It is so sad that some people just DON’T belong in the teaching field. I work with dyslexic students daily and the abuse they suffer at the hands of their “teachers” is awful!!!!! Most have no self-esteem because they are told they are stupid (most have above average IQ’s) and lazy. Some teachers just have NO tolerance for kids who aren’t cookie cutter students. They need more training to handle these situations in the classroom. Most teachers have to specialize in Special Education. With Autism on the rise they need more training. I have a great-nephew with Autism and so far his school experience has been okay. Every year we must pray he gets a good teacher.

  • http://beingammey.wordpress.com Ammey & mikel kohen

    Well, being that my son has Aspergers, they feel less obligated to take action, citing that he may learn his noises will get a negative reaction in society by being choked at school. As opposed to your perfectly reared child who gets the better protection at school. Interesting.
    My son is very well behaved at school now, perfect kid, like yours… except outside waiting for me to pick him up he gets overwhelmed with all the noise and starts making his own noises to calm down.
    Children are not a reflection of you. You can do everything right and all along your kid is an individual, with their own spirit. I would not take all the credit for him being such a good kid, maybe he is also just developing normally and has a good spirit. I recieved crappy parenting as a child and turned out with no behavior problems. I am a great mom too and I am not a push over.
    Is my son going back to that school? No.
    He stayed out of school 3 days until I got it in writing that child would be kept away from my kid. That was after 5 days of visits and phone calls and repeated bullying. They did not take it seriously because they felt for the boy who was annoyed. They understood him.

  • Adam Kralic

    Oh and who ultimately will pay if there is indeed a large settlement? Yeah that’s right everyone. You, me, that other guy…we’ll all pay. As will our children when there is no budget for new books, a science lab, etc.

  • Tara

    While I’ll be first to acknowledge that I find some aspects of our tort based legal system to be quite ridiculous I don’t see what good will come out of not pursuing legitimate issues because of the fear that we’ll all have to pay for it…

    It is funny how it is a priori expected that the result of eventual legal action will be “large settlement”. Would it be better if this is treated as criminal offense and legal action brought by the state?

  • http://daisymayfattypants.blogspot.com Emily

    And we’d all have avoided it if that teacher had done her job appropriately, with professionalism and compassion. If she had disciplined (in the original and best sense of the word) rather than humiliated. In other words, if she had taught rather than tortured.

  • http://storkdok-nos.blogspot.com/ Storkdok

    @Adam, did you use the name “William” in the post on the Priest who got a restraining order against a teenage autist?

  • http://storkdok-nos.blogspot.com/ Storkdok

    Did anyone notice this statement in one of the press releases?

    “Her personnel file shows she is trained and certified to teach special needs children.”

    Wow, wonder who’s method this particular “discipline” is from? I don’t remember it being described in ABA, TEACCH, SCERTS, Floortime, RDI or any other method I know.

  • http://hiddenrecovery.blogspot.com Ashley Morgan

    I am sickened by the actions of this teacher and school district. Another example of how we must EDUCATE THE EDUCATORS. I agree with the comments about the other children and the affects this experience will have on them. I hope this district will come around and use this as a teaching opportunity.

  • Adam Kralic


    No I did not. Oddly enough my name is Adam Kralic and I feel no need to hide my identity under a pseudonym.

    Why did your parents name you that anyways?

    Is your last name Rox?

    Because that would make sense. StoryDok Rox sounds pretty bitchin’.

  • Adam Kralic

    Ammey and Mikel…

    I had thought that perhaps my take on the situation might be taken as a insult to you. I did not mean it to be taken as such. You are a good person I’m certain. Probably most people here are. People can have wildly different viewpoints and not be bad…or even wrong.

    I was picked on a lot as a child and often wondered how I would react if the same happened to my child. That is how I reacted…I truly did not know until that moment.

    Not everything is black and white. Not all perceived bad people really are. Not all perceived good people really are.

    I’d really like to hear the teacher’s side of the story.

  • http://www.autismvox.com Kristina Chew, PhD

    @Adam Kralic,

    If I may ask—-have you been a teacher?

    I’ve been in the classroom for several years and in every class there is that one student, or few students, who struggles to learn as the rest of the class does and who, accordingly, has “behavior problems.”

    In no way is it ever fair, let alone right, to make any student feel uncomfortable or embarrassed. Students are there to learn and they very often feel, indeed, uncomfortable and embarrassed, and this is the last thing they wish the teacher or anyone else to know. Teaching is about creating a community in a classroom; certainly, in my best classes, everyone has grown together and grown to see how they are part of this community. It’s part of the learning experience for all the students and the teacher to understand how to accommodate and learn from each other.

  • Lisa Cyza

    This case has bothered me all day. I cried for Alex and his Mom when I saw them on the news this morn. I have sent the following email to the school. To Whom It May Concern

    I just heard about this on the news this morning and I’m am extremely
    concerned about what kind of precedent this is setting by allowing children
    of this age or any age to be subject to this kind of pyschology abuse by a
    teacher. What are we teaching our children by this example? Mrs. Portillo as
    a person of color should be even more sensitive to the subject of tolerance
    of race, creed, age, or ANY disability of another person. As a parent I am
    outraged, but I am also very sad for this poor child and his mother who have
    to tolerate this inexcuseable abuse of power by such an important role model
    for children. What if it were her child and he or she were being voted out
    because of their skin color?, big difference you say? I think not, TOLERANCE
    is the issue. I will pray for your school, this child’s teacher and
    especially his mother who has to try and explain why he is not accepted as
    he is over and over again. Please don’t allow this to go away, this is a
    subject all our children look to us as adults to learn about. Let’s teach
    them what IS acceptable and what IS NOT!

    Lisa R Cyza

  • Adam Kralic

    I have only taught English to Taiwanese students (in Taiwan) during the summer. The students there are vastly different than students here I’d guess.

    A) School is 6 days a week…all year long.
    B) I had students who went to private school after their regular classes. (I taught at a private school) (So 6 days a week school…all year long plus 3 days a week night classes. Starting at the age of 9)

    So definately not a fair comparison to our children. They are VERY serious students at all ages. From what I gather by visiting my son’s classes…we are a lot less serious about education in America.

    Regardless…it may comfort the board to know that my wife is 4000% on this boards “side”. :P Ah maybe balance is key after all.

  • http://beingammey.wordpress.com Ammey & mikel kohen

    I do not take offense easily, so Adam, I am not offended. I am just disappointed to hear you repeating the somewhat reasonable statement that you do not feel the public should put her on trial in the media or blogs with out detailed facts, etc and yet you follow that with misguided comments about children with needs and behaviors that you do not seem to understand.

    If a large amount of law suits follow this one, if it goes there, that is because there ALREADY are far too many teachers managing special needs children’s behaviors in manners that are against Federal and State mandated laws. Children can not be excluded from a public education activity due to their disability. Period. Even a classroom. And the mom was not even called for crying out loud. Not even by the nurse?

    Think about how many parents, such as myself that have already settled with their School Districts in mediation vs throwing a lawsuit at them. Most parents do not want to sue, they want a free and appropriate public education for their child, which is a right. Look up FAPE.
    Banter is a good thing but your comments are questionable.

  • Chuck

    “hv nly tght nglsh t Twns stdnts (n Twn) drng th smmr. Th stdnts thr r vstl dffrnt thn stdnts hr ’d gss.
    ) Schl s 6 dys wk…ll r lng.
    B) hd stdnts wh wnt t prvt schl ftr thr rglr clsss. ( tght t prvt schl) (S 6 ds wk schl…ll yr lng pls 3 dys wk nght clsss. Strtng t th g f 9)
    S dfntly nt fr cmprsn t r chldrn. Th r VR srs stdnts t ll gs. Frm wht gthr by vstng my sn’s clsss…w r lt lss srs bt dctn n mrc.
    Rgrdlss…t my cmfrt th brd t knw tht m wf s 4000% n ths brds “sd”. :P h myb blnc s ky ftr ll.”

    The only good troll is a disemvoweled one.

  • Phil Schwarz

    Re. Adam Kralic:
    I think the appropriate action here is THROW BEAR. (See the advice in Bev Schwartz’s (no relation) guide to my all-time favorite classic computer game, Crowther & Woods (1977) Adventure, about how to deal with a troll.)

  • Adam Kralic

    Chuck. Thanks for taking the time. I appreciate the effort.

    W/O a different opinion…you’d have 20 people patting each other on the back for being so right. Must make for exciting discussion.

    I’ll leave you to it then.

  • http://beingammey.wordpress.com Ammey & mikel kohen

    No one is trying to be right here, just having heart for kids like Alex Barton…

  • Pingback: Adam Race, Alex Barton, Nate Tseglin

  • http://radical.sapphoq.com spike of sapphoq.com

    I wouldn’t allow that teacher near my dog, never mind a child.

    I am horrified that she did this to a child who is on his way to a broad autistic spectrum diagnosis.

    I am horrified that she did this to a five year old boy.


  • http://storkdok-nos.blogspot.com/ Storkdok

    @Adam, thanks for the clarification. Didn’t know we had so many trolls here. Thought you might be masquerading to make it seem like there were more ignorant people here. The Taiwanese culture is completely different from N. American culture, so you really have no experience in teaching that is comparable to the USA. As your child is NT, you don’t have a clue as to our lives and our children’s lives. It’s obvious you are trolling.

  • ASDmomNC

    I don’t think Adam is trolling, I think he honestly believes every word he types. I used to be just as smug and sanctimonious about child rearing and discipline. I had all the answers and knew that “those” parents of “those” children who were so ill-behaved were just doing things wrong. If only they did xyz, their children would be well behaved.

    Then God laughed and I gave birth to an autistic child.

    Karma is not without a sense of humor. Adam will learn one day. Just not today. I let his ignorance roll off my back knowing that the day will come when life knocks him off his high horse, just like it did for me.

  • Regan

    To say that a child with a learning or other disability can be “snapped out of it” by having the class play lifeboat is boggling. The lesson being taught to young children about tolerance is appalling, especially when the exercise is directed by the classroom teacher…one who has a cited competency in special education.

    For those having a hard time grasping the concept because the neurologic difference is Asperger’s Syndrome, substitute blindness, deafness, traumatic brain disorder/injury, or other of the IDEA categories.

  • http://www.autismvox.com Kristina Chew, PhD

    @Adam Kralic,

    Taiwan—-yes, a completely different educational environment! I’ve spent a summer there and had many friends who went there and elsewhere in Asia (Japan, Thailand, South Korea, China) to teach. I’m a 3rd generation Chinese American and never had a single behavior problem; “doing good” and “being good” in school were simply “what you did.”

    Then I had my son and there couldn’t be a more different student. Struggles to do anything academic (he’s far behind his grade level), doesn’t like books, likes PE (mostly). And lots of issues with behavior; Charlie’s been only in special ed and at one point he was in essence “expelled” from school—-the district could not, would not, keep him due to his behavior problems.

    Nonetheless, from my own teaching, there’s always been students in a class who had various needs. They’re there and they have to be taught. Very best—-

  • Chuck

    “Thanks for taking the time. I appreciate the effort. ”
    15 seconds to have a little fun, no problem

  • http://www.pushingpastautism.org Lawrence C

    Hey Adam Kralic,

    I like that you are explaining your logic even though we disagree. But I continue to disagree.

    You said, about your own 7 yr old, “IF he acted like Alex…he’d be in a special needs school.”
    Adam- THERE ARE NO “SPECIAL NEEDS SCHOOLS” because your lawmakers, fellow taxpayers, and insurance companies do not want to pay for them. If you can get someone to set up “Special needs schools” and then have tax dollars pay for them, just like my tax dollars pay for your kid’s normal school, you would be a hero to many of us.

    Then you said “Do I need to work two jobs to make it so? If I do…guess what? I get a 2nd job.” Adam-it’s about an extra $120,000 per year- most people cannot afford that even with two jobs. If you can persuade our lawmakers and insurance companies to pick up the cost the problem would be solved. And they should. My taxes and insurance premiums currently pay for things that other people do that I don’t do- like accidentally getting pregnant, making yourself fat, clogging your own arteries, hurting yourself by consuming cigarette/drug/alcohol, cosmetic implants, and sexual enhancements – yet they won’t pay for a disability that a kid did not choose to inflict upon himself. Unfortunately, some marketing sleaze sees the numbers of potential customers out there and will lobby for an autism pill that makes millions for the usual crowd and drugs our kids, rather than paying for therapy and searching for the cause. It will be like the many unecessary Ritalin-doped kids over the years.

    Then you said “IF I had to home school him after work…I would.” How would you? Would you never sleep?

    Then you said “It is MY responsibility. Not the state’s.” Wrong- it is the state’s. That’s old and well-settled law.

    Then you said “I expect a call if he misbehaves.” – No kidding, Adam. The Barton’s expected a call when their kid misbehaved. They did not expect teacher Portillo to have the other kids join her in psychologically tormenting and humiliating their kid.

    Another thing – you keep saying it is a matter of undisciplined kids, as if it is as simple as the parents are not disciplining their kids. You won’t believe otherwise until your own kid is autistic. I used to think like you because I’ve achieved a lot due to my disciplined, work-ethic upbringing and I figured it would work on my kids. It doesn’t cure autism. Stop doubting us and stop thinking that the problem is that we do not properly discipline our kids. We can’t all possibly be wrong.

  • yes,but

    What happened was wrong, no question. It defies belief and sickens the soul.

    But let me tell you a story from the other side. My son was in a classroom with a child from kindergarten through 2d grade who had an undiagnosed problem that the parents refused to acknowledge, and refuse to, to this day. The disruption in the classroom was so severe my son would come home crying every afternoon, saying he just wanted to learn but could not. I went into the classroom and saw it in action. In the music room the boy was so out of control he knocked over a zylophone, which landed on another child and broke the instrument. At special events, the boy is completely ignored and allowed to wander on his own, because he is not able to function in a team or group. It’s sad for him, but no one knows what to do about it, without the parents on board.

    From third grade on, I have requested that my child not be put in a classroom with this boy and the school has honored my request.

    Should the rights of one child trump those of two dozen others? Should the entire educational environment be ruined for the sake of one child? I don’t know of any way that everyone can be satisfied. The child had an aide one year, but budget cuts put an end to that. Every year I will put in my request. I don’t know what else to do.

  • http://www.thomaspages.org/bloggg/index.php?/site/omg_it_passed/ Moi

    OMG I cannot believe I just am hearing about this.

    You know, not to take ANY of the blame off the teacher – because what she did is beyond belief – but this is what happens when teachers don’t get the training our kids need. Someone who had ANY awareness or empathy for special needs children and training on how to work with them would NEVER have done something like this.

    So when you write to the school board, rave about that, too. They’ve set themselves up for a fine lawsuit by being irresponsible themselves.

  • Matt

    Do we know for certain that all aspects of this story are true? Before we do, we need to be careful of the witchhunt mentality. It sounds like a teacher acting our of frustration and fatigue. How many of you work with 15-30 youngsters in a room at one time, all with various needs? Sadly, we don’t give our teachers the support they need. “Mental Health professionals” would be working with these individuals one on one and for much higher pay. If the aspects of the story are indeed true, I would concur that this teacher should find another profession. But wait and see what all the facts are first . . .

  • A Mom with Asperger’s child

    Hi Adam,

    May be you think autistic kids get out of control in class? May be this gives you an idea how they are. I’m talking about my son who has Asperger’s.
    A lot of Asperger’s child don’t need Special Need
    School because they are too smart for that.
    My son’s IQ is above average, still, because speech delay he is not an honor student. He is a GOOD and SMART boy!!!
    Asperger’s is a mild form of autism that’s why it is discovered only when the child is older, from age 4-7. Until then people just guessing “what’s wrong with that kid”? He is a brat!
    My son is 7 1/2, he was diagnosed with Asperger’s a year ago.
    He got in trouble in school many times because He “wanted to have his way, and wasn’t following direction”.
    When he is doing something he NEEDS to finish it, specially drawings! In class between circle time and table work he needed to quickly draw something, he wasn’t able to switch just like that! When they were sitting in circle time he couldn’t just sit on he’s bottom, he was rocking a little and he had to keep his hands “busy” with something like a little piece of tread, but he didn’t bother with this anybody, except the teacher thought he wasn’t listening because he wasn’t looking at them at all times, he was looking at his hands. That helped him concentrate, believe or not!

    You think it is a reason to send a child to a Special Need School???

    Of course the teachers thought this was not following direction because they couldn’t make him NOT doing these things. So his started crying, then they dragged him to the office by his upper arm.
    He was on red 3-4 times in a week and crying every day.
    The principal told the teachers to give him stickers when he completes an hour “trouble-free”, and let him do his rocking and quick drawing and after that he was TROUBLE-FREE!!!!

    Before the testing the teachers told me many times he is spoiled that’s why he wants to get his way because he is getting it with me. I don’t spoil my child.
    My husband and I discipline our son but it does not change his autism!!

    (sorry if I made mistakes, English is my 2nd language)

  • A Mom with Asperger’s child

    Actually he was an Honor Student last month!!!

  • http://daisymayfattypants.blogspot.com Emily

    These examples of children’s potential or remembered or current behavior in the classroom and assertions that they’re depriving other, apparently more important children of their educations are irrelevant. It doesn’t matter if the child should have been in different classroom situation. It doesn’t matter, even, whether or not he was diagnosed with anything, except taht the teacher has now opened the district to litigation under 504.

    The only relevant fact here is this: The teacher was the adult (allegedly) in the situation. She had any number of reasonable options for managing it. She opted for systematic humiliation. She violated any number of codes of conduct in doing so. This entire situation is her fault. She chose, as the adult in the situation, to bully and humiliate a small child and to involve 16 other children in her sadism. Nothing else about this situation is relevant.

  • http://storkdok-nos.blogspot.com/ Storkdok

    @Moi, this teacher actually does have training and a certificate in special needs children. This is in one of the articles:

    “Her personnel file shows she is trained and certified to teach special needs children.”

    This means it is not ignorance on her part, she had training. Makes me wonder what kind of training she really had, and who did the training?

    @yes,but, every child has a right to a free and appropriate education. For children with special needs and an IEP (individualized educational plan) that mean accommodations that will “make the playing field level”, as they are starting so far behind.

    The situation you describe is very sad. I know some parents are in denial, and only to the detriment of their child. But I have also read of schools doing assessments within the school hours and in their facilities, even if the parent refuses, because the child is having so many problems and causing problems in the classroom, like you describe. I’m sorry your son has had such a hard time.

    I can assure you that at my son’s school, his one-on-one aide is trained to help calm him down and he takes a break if he gets overstimulated or frustrated and cannot be helped to calm himself. No child in his classroom has been traumatized by my son’s actions. In fact, I am proud to say that they are actually trying to help talk Alex through the frustration of waiting in lines. I saw them do this on a field trip last week, and I thought, wow, these kids are so great, they are learning empathy and how to help others in a deeper way.

    I wish I could help you with some words of advice to help your son’s situation and that poor child, who also suffers without the proper help. Maybe someone else here knows something that could help?

  • Lawrence C

    Hey “Matt”

    Matt, what witch hunt? you don’t need to wait for all the facts to know that no matter what the facts are, teacher Portillo was way wrong. You should never do what she did. If she lost control of the Barton boy and it was threatening the well being of her class she should have phoned the principal and the parents. And you are correct when you say “Sadly, we don’t give our teachers the support they need. “Mental Health professionals” would be working with these individuals one on one and for much higher pay.”- Agreed- let’s get lawmakers and insurance companies to provide the help needed.

    Hey “yes,but”- if your child really did come home crying “every afternoon” and said it was because he could not learn, take your child to a psychologist because that seems like a lot of crying over something that it seems should not normally provoke daily crying. Next, instead of asking “Should the rights of one child trump those of two dozen others? Should the entire educational environment be ruined for the sake of one child?” you should consider that public school if for everyone, even those who achieve less than our child and even those who do not behave as well. If it rises to the level of “ruining” it- yes complain to the principal etc. If it slightly diminishes it– accept it as a characteristic of living in society instead of in isolation. You tolerate people in public places. That’s what you do. If you want to shelter your child then do home school.

  • http://storkdok-nos.blogspot.com/ Storkdok

    @A Mom with Asperger’s child, a big congratulations to you and your son! And your english is just fine!

    @Emily, I agree, there is absolutely no excuse for the humiliation.

  • HCN

    This reminds me of when my now 19 year old son was in kindergarten. I remember when people found out that he was in special ed. that he was automatically considered troublesome! I even sent a plea to our senators to support special ed., and enclosed his “Random Acts of Kindness” award, only to have one write back that the special ed. kids were a major cause of violence in the schools (and I had just attended a speech give by the superintendent of our school district who said school violence was at a twenty year low!).

    My son is not autistic (at least not by 1993 standards), but he does have a very severe speech disorder with some language issues added. His only form of communication when he was three years old was sign language. It is not a behavior issue. He is the quiet kid in class, mostly because he is aware of how different his speech is.

    I was at the local playground and one mom was saying they were working to have the special ed. program my son was part of removed from their school. I asked why (since it was a program for speech disordered children, not autism, and was related to the adjourning deaf program in this regular public school with a special ed. portion). She responded because the kids were bad (or some such).

    I told her that the speech disability was not a behavioral disorder and that my son was in it. She asked me who my son was, and I pointed to her child and said: “The little boy playing with you son.”

    She blanched!

    Apparently, lots of the parents were going on misinformation. Many of the disciplinary problems were “normal” kids, but they just needed a scapegoat.

    Some later changed their tune as their kids got older and needed the services available at the building. One of the moms who wanted the special ed. program out when her oldest was in kindergarten, started to sing the praises of the OT/PT after it turned out her younger son needed their help when he started kindergarten.

  • IDLF

    Leave it to FLORIDA.
    Does no one remember when those three hemophiliac children in Florida had their house BURNED in the 1980s –basically a public lynching of sorts– because they contracted HIV from blood infusions???

    Clearly, Florida is one fucked-up place to be for children.

  • http://www.autismvox.com Kristina Chew, PhD

    @Matt, You wrote “Do we know for certain that all aspects of this story are true?”—-numerous news sources are reporting on the story and provided many of the basic details noted here. But if you hear any updates (I keep checking), please let us know.

    Regardless, I think the incident has highlighted some very real concerns that parents have about their special needs kids in classrooms. My own son is in a self-contained classroom where all of the teachers and therapists are very highly trained. Not that there haven’t been other issues of exclusion to address.

  • ASDmomNC

    Exactly right, Kristina. Plus, let’s not forget, Ms. Portillo flat out admitted that she did exactly what the child said she did. Not only did she admit such facts to the principal and the school nurse, but also to Alex’s mother.

  • Pingback: Whitterer on Autism » Blog Archive » Alex Barton

  • Craig

    It is absolutely sickening a teacher would do this to a child. It only makes the child feel alot more “not wanted”. Even his one and only friend voted him out. Why would a teacher do this? Is this how she raised/s her children?

  • http://spartan1.0.1@hotmail.com Rob

    what kind of teacher does this to a kid that just wants to be a kid and cant help that he has autism and trys to fit in and make friends. this teacher has no right to do this. this is not right the teacher should be fined and fired with her teaching licence taken away with no chance to teach in FL. again. i mean come on she is an adult she should act like one and becase she didnt she should be punished like an adult. i cant she how someone could be so unkind when in the postion she was in.



  • Roy W. Lewis

    Attached is a letter I sent to Alex Barton’s teacher, principal, and school board:

    Ms. Portillo,
    I write to express my outrage at your purposeful humiliation of five year-old Alex Barton. I understand that you believe you did nothing wrong. You are profoundly mistaken. You subjected him to a public shaming which will affect him for the rest of his life. I know; I am the father of a twenty-five year old autistic son. As such my family and I deal continually with the predjudice, humiliation, exclusion, neglect, and discrimination heaped upon him by an ignorant public. Physically and developmentally handicapped citizens in this country are routinely subjected to abuse and discrimination that would not be accepted if they belonged to a racial or religious minority. Children on the autism spectrum are constantly stressed to the limit trying to cope with a world they cannot comprehend. They are highly sensitive to the slights and abuse to which they are subjected, but incapable of recognizing and responding to the social cues required to fit in, without support, understanding, and coaching from the adults in their lives.
    When my son was Alex’s age the local school told us he was uneducateable—that we should look for a residential institution. Fortunately we ignored their recommendation. With the help of dedicated teachers, counselling, therapy, and constant parental advocacy in the face of overwhelming school-based ignorance and violence, Aaron is now a high-school graduate working in a non-sheltered environment. Had we blindly followed school advice, he would be rocking in some bleak corner at government expense for the rest of his life. Alex needed a champion—unfortunately he got you.
    Playing a positive role in the life of an autistic child is a challenge. It requires sensitivity, patience, understanding, and compassion—qualities you demonstrably lack. These are the same qualities required of any teacher or parent. Instead of behaving as a compassionate adult, much less a trained child-care professional, you chose to emotionally abuse an innocent child placed in your care. That said, you are clearly not qualified to play a role in the life of any child. You are unfit to teach. You should be fired immediately.
    Sincerely yours,

    Roy W. Lewis
    cc: Ms. Melissa Barton
    Ms. Marcia Cully, Principal, Morningside Elementary School
    Mrs. Kathryn Hensley, St. Lucie County School Board
    Mr. Troy Ingersoll, St. Lucie County School Board
    Dr. Judi Miller, St. Lucie County School Board
    Dr. John Carvelli, St. Lucie County School Board
    Ms. Carol A. Hilson, St. Lucie County School Board

  • Lisa In Topeka

    “Low Paid Teacher’s” post above is the typical ‘cookie cutter kid” mentality of most teachers! Take a ride on the clue bus and get with the times. It’s teachers like you that are just bored with their job and don’t take the initiative to get on with their lives. Sorry you’re ‘underpaid’ and obviously tifted about that but don’t take it out on the kids. Maybe if you took the time to really get to know these children on an individual basis you might ‘have a clue’. These children have every right to be mainstreamed, it’s just a little more effort on your part and you don’t want the bother. Pfffft, I think you’re overpaid!

  • http://www.autismvox.com Kristina Chew, PhD

    Another point to throw in the ring/comment thread: More than a few teachers, parents, professionals have noted to me that it’s precisely the younger kids (kindergarten age, for instance) who are the most tolerant and accepting of kids who are different in their classes with them—they are less influence than, for instance, adolescents, by peer pressure. So in a lot of ways a kindergarten classroom could be a very good space for a child on the autism spectrum to be mainstreamed.

  • Shari In Ohio

    I find it very hard to understand why someone who does not have a tremendous love for children and an extreme amout of patience would choose to be a teacher. This entire country knows that educators are underpaid for their services. Every single child in this country, regardless of what circumstances or troubles they may have, deserves a chace to thrive and to be treated with compassion. I assume that someone who chooses to be a teacher wants to makes a difference in a child’s life. I wonder what kind of difference Ms. Wendy Portillo made in little Alex’s life?? This story enrages me!

  • Mary Molaskey

    I can’t stop crying after reading about Alex, thinking he is not liked.

    Ms. Portillo, I hope will never return to the classroom again.

    All kids have a right to an education.

    How blessed Ms. Portillo COULD have been had she gotten to know Alex. Alex would have taught her not to judge.

    Proud mommy of JT age 7 with Down Syndrome

  • http://stoplittering.com Jeff Poster

    The best thing that will come of this is that when David Kelly hears about it he’ll immediately work it into the script of the first episode of next season—one of the lawyers has Asperger’s.
    And I bet he’ll even have the mom and Alex on to play themselves. Alex will feel special and they’ll get paid.

  • Amy White

    This is just horrable! My son was diagnosed with Aspergers at the age of 11. He got diagnosed in the summer of his 5th grade year. He went thru his whole elementry years with this and we could not figure out how to help him. We are active duty military so we were in about 3 different schools. We were always in close contact with the teachers and tried everything that they asked. We had never heard of Asperger’s. There was an incident in his 5th grade year that made me stop listining to the teachers and staff and I took him to Vanderbilt Childrens Hospital. We got the diagnosis there. He is now going to be in the 7th grade this fall. We continualy have problems with other students being very ugly to him. And I deal with everyone of them as I become aware of them. My son WILL NOT have fear of going to school any more.
    Shame on this “teacher”. I hope others learn from this extreemly poor teaching style. The humiliation that she set out for him has now turned its ugly head at her…..wonder if she thinks it’s benificial?

  • MSP

    I am actually not surprised by this from our public schools. I just ended a horrific year with my Asperger son in kindergarten; he was kicked out of Frontiers after school program in November and the rejection sent him spiraling down. I lost track but I think he ended up with 7 suspensions all for behavior explained by Aspergers.

    We had to have him diagnosed to prove to the school that he wasn’t just being bad. The Principle felt he just need more discipline, suspensions will work!

    Amazing but when they take his condition into consideration and interact with him in a way he can understand his behavior improved 100%.

    Alex’s mom will have a little fight but getting a diagnosis is critical when dealing with the school systems in this country.

  • A Mom with Asperger’s child

    Hi Storkdok,

    Thank you!!!

    We have to be strong for our children specially if they are “different”.
    I’m still ashamed I listened to the teachers in the beginning and thought my son was “bad”. I didn’t believed him when he told me his “version” of what ever happened in school and punished him for what he “did” in school. He was always punished!
    It brakes my heart just thinking about it!
    He is one of those kids who would tell you the truth in any circumstances, even if gets time out for it!
    Fortunately, soon I realized what was going on and ever since I don’t let anybody mistreat him again.
    My point is: WE have to fight for our children because they can’t fight for themselves!
    We can’t trust an adult over a child! At least that was my lesson!!!

    His spirit wasn’t broken, he is still a sweet and happy kid, and I’m/We trying to keep it that way!

  • A Mom with Asperger’s child

    Hi MSP,

    Looks like a lot of Asperger’s child is struggles in kindergarten, and the whole time I felt so alone!

    My son has Asperger’s too. I can tell you that the 1st Grade is much better.
    It was amazing what a summer brake could do. He matured a lot during summer time, still a little bit more immature then kids his age, but doing much better!
    I made sure I spoke to his new teacher before the new school year started and told her some of things that my son does that he can’t help NOT doing!
    They are helping him staying on track and they are more patient with him.
    He had a much better year in 1st Grade!!!

  • MSP

    I bet there are thousands of Asperger kids that have the same miserable kindergarten year in our public schools.

    In my case we had a good teacher but a bad Principle. Unfortunately we will have to deal with him for 6 years.

    Glad things get better in first grade! His IEP for next year states he will go to the special education teacher for behavioral problems instead of the Principles office. At least he will be educated instead of taking naps in the Principles office!

    Hopefully this whole incident with Alex will wake up and shake up the public schools!

  • http://www.autismvox.com Kristina Chew, PhD

    I have to join you in thinking that there must be a lot more kids out there with Asperger’s who have faced the same difficulties (I know my severely ADHD husband—years before anyone ever said anything about ADHD—-had some very tough times in school).

    I wonder also if kindergarten is especially difficult because it’s a sort of transitional year, from preschool to “real school” (so to speak). My own son is in a self-contained classroom (located in a public school in our town); due to his autism diagnosis, he gets a lot of services. But families with a child with Asperger’s have told me about kindergarten and first grade being years when they no longer got the special supports that their child had had, on the basis of the child being “too high-functioning” for an aide or other services.

  • http://www.autismvox.com Kristina Chew, PhD

    Mommy Life has a statement from Melissa Barton and also an interview. And she also has an idea for what to do about it, a card campaign.

  • Pingback: Update on Alex Barton: From the Police Report

  • Duane

    Response to Adam Kralic and others who discuss how Alex’s “bad” behaviour may have caused this:

    I have been involved in teaching and coaching children for more than 20 years – including autistic kids. Many of my kids had much larger issues to face than Alex’s, and to say it was “challenging” at times would be a great understatment. However, I need to point out three things:

    1) Even if the student had been completely out of control, or had been entirely disruptive, violent even – describe any scenario you want – the actions of theis teacher would NEVER be considered acceptable. Ever. Period. This is HIGHLY unprofessional, and downright wrong.

    2) From all the evidence we have now – including the police report – Alex was not doing anything that would normally be considered a major disruption. Keep in mind – this teacher called a police officer because Alex – while laying on the floor, apparently with the other kids – lifted a table up with his feet. As I sit here typing this, I’m doing the same thing with my chair. Nobody’s calling the police on me.

    3) If a child is truly disruptive to a classroom environment, there are ways to deal with that – but much of the time, children labelled as “disruptive” really aren’t. They’ve just got some condition, issue, or just plain personality type that calls for an approach different from the one the teacher was planning on or most comfortable with using. In these cases, it is the teacher who has the responsibility to change, and the good ones do (or try to). A great many teachers, however, take the easy way out by slapping a label onto a child that perhaps they don’t really deserve and trying to have them removed from the classroom. As I always tell my kids, “the easy way is almost always the wrong way”.

  • http://www.thomaspages.org/bloggg/index.php?/site/omg_it_passed/ Moi

    ~Storkdok, thank you for telling me that, somehow in all the zillion articles I’ve read, I missed that!!! Of course, we don’t know what kind of training it was, she could have had a continuing ed class….

    This makes it even worse, then. The idea that they were evaluating the child for autism (and have gotten the Dx, from what I’ve heard), added to the “fact” that she had “training” means that they KNEW the traits of autism. So there is NO excuse for treating a child that way when you KNOW they will remember it for life. Geez, if We can’t understand why a classless imbecile would humiliate a 5 year old, how could they ever expect the Child to get it???

    I hope the ACLU jumps in on this, because that child’s civil rights have been violated. They owe him an education, all right, and how can he ever go back to that school? Florida is a Right to Work state, so they should be able to ditch her easily enough. If they don’t, it could likely be seen as condonation by the courts. I don’t think the district will be rich enough to defend that…

  • A Mom with Asperger’s child

    The problem that I’m still having -although the teachers my son has this year are really good with him- is that, he still gets on red because, he plays with the pencils while the teacher is talking and they don’t think that he is paying attention.
    Basically they think that a lot of times he is playing when he suppose to listen, and he doesn’t do immediately what the teacher tells him to do.
    As far as I know these are the things he most of the time he gets on yellow or red.
    I know it could be mistaken easily, even for me. Sometimes I don’t even think he hears me when I’m talking to him, looks like he is in a different world!
    The problem is! I know he listens and a lot of times I have to ignore that he was on yellow or red because he can’t stop himself doing those things. A lot of times he doesn’t even understand why he gets punished.
    But…because of these things he doesn’t respect the “power” of red and yellow, but still makes him feel bad a little!!!
    So the only option I have is talk, talk, talk and talk to him about right & wrong!!! Don’t get me wrong, he is NOT bad in the classroom, the teacher told me.
    So, I’m stuck in this situation because I can’t stop him doing these things, but the teacher can’t stop measure him to the other kids even with the best intention and probably they feel that the other kids would feel bad if my son doesn’t get punished for things that they get in trouble for.
    What can you do?

  • Dee

    that woman should go to hell!

  • http://www.autismvox.com Kristina Chew, PhD

    I’ve noted the same about my son—in particular, he’ll be fiddling with some pens or something and doing that seems to help him “tune in” better. It almost seems that, if he tries too hard to pay attention it’s even harder.

    Would it be helpful to give the teacher some information or something to read? (Though perhaps you’ve already done this.) I’m trying to find something that might be helpful.

  • MSP

    If your child is having trouble in school and has ADHD perhaps this would help:

    Many kids with Aspergers also have ADHD. After my son was diagnosed it was recommended that he be put on drugs to treat the ADHD. I looked into it and decided I didn’t like any of the drugs in use but in my research found these links with suggested dietary changes. With out informing his teachers I made these changes to his diet and immediately he went from being on red and yellow to being on blue and green. After just one week I informed the teacher and she was impressed, she had really noticed his ability to focus and pay attention improved greatly.

    It made sense to me; he is a very picky eater and will not eat meat or vegetables so he must have some deficiencies in his diet. I had him on a good multi vitamin so I added Omega 3 and a protein shake (Muscle Milk – low sugar) once a day and reduced his sugar, artificial sweeter and preservatives. It was like a miracle, it didn’t change his Aspergers but it greatly reduces the ADHD affects and allows him to mainstream with out being disruptive. Now the teachers just have to address his Aspergers needs.

    It did require the help of the teachers to guide him to choose the right food at breakfast and lunch but after seeing the difference the teachers were more than glad to help. Many teachers from the school started to request the diet changes from me so they could encourage other parents to try it with their ADHD kids.

    Here are the links:





  • http://beingammey.wordpress.com Ammey & mikel kohen

    Interesting to me too. My older son (15) who has Autism has always been unable to stop drawing all over his assignments, hands etc. during classtime. Where as he used to get in trouble for it in elementary school, I have found in High School they realize he is listening and learning while he is drawing, so they let him. I think it helps him pay attention in some ways, he is calmer and more focused. I rarely hear complaints about it, even though he is still comming home with artwork all over his hands and papers.

  • A Mom with Asperger’s child

    My son is the same way…
    He is absolutely obsessed with play dough and drawing. If something has a dragon or some kind of reptile on it, you know my son touched it! :)
    I explained to the teachers and they seemed to understand, but still…..
    I mean, a lot of times I know it is hard to decide at the moment if he is really not paying attention or he is really focusing. Just ask him what was said! If he can repeat what was sad then you know he listens. It happened to me many times, and he always knows what was said to him. I don’t think this is too much to ask even if the teacher has other children to look out for.
    I don’t understand why are they punishing in the school system instead of awarding. My son always more motivated when he gets a sticker than put him on yellow or red. I think that goes to other kids not just autistic kids.

    Hi MSP,

    Thanks. I’m definitely going to check out those websites!
    My son doesn’t have ADHD though. He was tested for that too. He is just a little bit more hyper then other children, the doctors told me he is like that because he has a lot of environmental and food allergies.
    He is highly allergic to dairy, (the protein in milk) product. He is also very picky eater, but because of his allergies the menu that he can have is very limited. The only good thing about it is he hardly can have any junk food.
    We give him good quality vitamin and I’m trying to buy “healthy” food!
    But, you can never know enough!!! So I try to stay very open minded!

  • Dave

    To the handful of people defending this teacher, sorry, but her handling of the situation is indefensible. No one is denying that teaching a roomful of children can be trying. But no matter what a child is doing in the class, to put them up in front of the class to let the other 5-year olds take pot shots at them and then put the power into THEIR hands to give a thumbs up or thumbs down as to dump that child from the class is cruel and devastating to a small child, and only teaches the other kids that understanding and tolerance is trumped by mob rule to drive out “undesirables”.
    An ADULT PROFESSIONAL teacher would have had a sit down meeting with the principal, the parents and brought in a school psychologist or another behavioral expert to discuss the matter. If the child was truly making teaching other kids in the class impossible, then options could be discussed and the teacher and parents could work as a team. NEVER should she have passed off her responsibility into the hands of a roomful of kindergarteners. They have no training or understanding in the matter. They are little kids, for gosh sake! This isn’t Lord of the Flies!
    Yes, some have said “we don’t know all the details”, and that is true. But I can’t imagine ANY new details we could learn that would make it “acceptable” for a teacher to use public humiliation on a 5-year old and use a classroom full of kids to gang up on and kick out a fellow child. Autistic or otherwise. And the state attorney saw nothing wrong with this?? I suppose the teacher would have had a better chance of losing her job had she done a magic trick and got fired for practicing “wizardry”. What century is this again?

  • http://autspect.fi/education/page.php?id=18 David N. Andrews M. Ed. (Distinction)

    I rail against Finland quite a lot, and for very good reason: autism in all its manifestations is poorly understood here and – if one is autistic in any way in Finland – then one is in a terrible position indeed.

    However, despite the terrible things I have been asked to comment on as an educational psychologist here, I have never heard of this ‘Survivor/Idols” voting-off/out thing happening in a Finnish school. It would not find any justification fom the school boards if a nursery/early-years teacher was ever found out doing that.

    The job of the teacher includes the management of the classroom; it includes the manipulation of the environment in order to facilitate learning; it includes trying to understand one’s students and how they relate to one another and themselves; but it does not include using humiliation as a ‘teaching method’ for self-regulation (and, as a teacher certificated for special education, the teacher in Alex’s class should have been aware of this).

    I could go on about the effects (on students’ self-esteem) of actions like Ms Portillo’s in this case; but I won’t. Why write an educational psychological treatise on it when we already know as parents and/or as autistics ourselves (I fall into both camps) what the result is?

  • Marle

    Well what now Kiddie Survivor! How STUPID and SILLY is that? What a waste of time! This teacher scared little Alex. The same thing happen to my son who had learning disabilities. He worked so hard in order to be mainstreamed. His very first day of being mainstreamed in public school, he was called, STUPID, NOT WORTH TEACHING, by one of the teachers. I found out and faced this teacher head on. Told him that I’d have his job by the end of the day. I had spent out thousands of dollars on private schools, private tutors, therapists, and your not going to wreck it for him. Well my youngest son with all the problems he had is now computer administrator at a big company in New Mexico…”Not Florida” Wonder who they will be picked on next for STATE FUNDS? Guess what… My son is paying taxes. Yep the STUPID ONE. Then people wonder why, parents that have children with disabilities are on the defence?

  • Marle

    When I read more about little Alex, I can see parallels with him and my son. I was wondering if this cruel way of teaching children was accepted among some teachers? With Alex, Wendy Portillo wanted Alex to hear from his classmates his bad actions so that he wouldn’t be hearing it from an adult, and change his ways. In 1995 when my son was a freshman and going to be mainstream, his one teacher told me the reason that he said what he did, calling him STUPID and NOT WORTH TEACHING, was to JUMP START my son to MOTIVATE him. My son was doing the same thing Alex was when he was saying over and over he wasn’t special. My son was sitting in a closet reading his school books in tears, also saying, I’M NOT WORTH IT. Over and over. Couldn’t get him in a car to go to school, or on a bus. Wouldn’t let him out of my sight, and scared out of my mind, until we got help. There are parallels, and was so astonished to see it. Our situation was 1995, and Alex 2008. I’m sure many, many parents can see parallels.

    Bless You Melissa Barton, and Alex

  • Astrid

    Regarding the discussion about autistic kids drawing or fiddling with things, I have some perspective from the other side of things. I’m very probably some form of ASD (undiagnosed, but the symptoms are really rather clear) and I basically drew the entire way through high school. It undoubtedly originated because I /have/ to have something to do with my hands or I get terribly jumpy and distracted – it might be some form of stimming – but the main “problem” was that it was almost entirely unconscious. I’d realise I was drawing, scold myself mentally, put down the pen and twenty seconds later realise I’d picked it up again and carried on without noticing.

    This is probably why it didn’t distract me from the actual class at all. However, it meant it was completely impossible for me to stop drawing since doing so basically meant I had to constantly focus on /not/ doing anything with my hands, and that really didn’t leave enough attention to focus on the actual class. Luckily, I never got more than askance looks from the teachers so it wasn’t much of a problem. I still remember one time a classmate gave a presentation and the teacher sat down next to me, and after a dark look I wound up expending so much effort on not drawing that I didn’t catch a single word of the actual presentation!

    Which doesn’t mean the same thing is going on with your children, but what you said really sounded familiar (the dragons cinched it!) so I thought I’d share what it was like from this autistic’s perspective.

    (Incidentally, the only reason I’ve /stopped/ is because university involves taking notes from start to finish, leaving my hands occupied. Outside of lectures, I don’t usually have pen and paper to hand but still tend to accumulate odd sculptures made from paper, napkins or whatever was to hand that I have no memory of actually making.)

    The story about the teacher and poor Alex is, of course, nothing short of disgusting! I dearly hope justice is done and that all children involved manage to heal from this experience. What a horrible thing to go through.

  • http://www.autismvox.com Kristina Chew, PhD

    Thanks for noting that, Astrid—-I’ve been in plenty of meetings and seen adults doodling on their notebooks. I think it can help a student to focus more by doing more than one thing at a time; maybe a way to release energy that is getting pent up?

  • Astrid

    It’s definitely not a solely-autistic thing, although I suspect the complete unconsciousness of the act may be something that’s more typical of autistics. (It can be hard to tell.) I admit I’ve never thought of it as anything to do with excess energy, but you may have a point. It feels rather like getting the body busy on something else so the mind can work without distractions (this may tie into stimming, come to think of it.)

    It occurs to me that one of the problems here might be the eye contact thing. Generally, it’s expected to look at whatever (or whomever) you are currently paying attention to, and looking away, as in drawing, is therefore considered a sign of distraction. Of course, for autistics eye contact isn’t nearly as necessary and can in fact be a distraction in itself. This is most obvious in conversation, but seems to apply to people drawing during a class as well.

  • http://beingammey.wordpress.com Ammey & mikel kohen

    That all makes so much sense. Thanks for sharing your perspective Astrid. My son does not naturally look at people when they talk, so for him, his drawing during class maybe a way for him to keep his eyes occupied while he is listening. He still does not “get” why eye contact is important, to him, if he is listening, why does it matter where he is looking? Literal. I frequently talk to the back of his head, and when I ask him to turn around to please look in my direction he gets frustrated because it seems a waste of time to him.

    Drawing for him relieves anxiety during school too. Which is a good thing, and it has also opened him up to conversations with peers that may never have taken place. Kids peek over his shoulder and ask him questions, compliment him, etc. It has been a vessel through which he can socialize to some degree. It draws kids to him and has allowed a few friendships to form along the way.

    I always wonder whether it can be a sensory defensive thing too. If he is visually defensive, maybe this helps to provide visual input that is pleasing vs noxious visual stimulation.

  • A Mom with Asperger’s child

    It is really good to hear about this, from your point of you, Astrid!
    I totally understand why my son is doing it.
    My son mostly use drawing and play dough as a “focusing” tool. (he can make awesome miniature dragons & dinosaurs)
    The problem is, in school, the teachers say he gets really into it and don’t want to do his work, so they don’t allow him using play dough at all, when they see him drawing they not letting him, then he starts putting markers together (making a stick), then they take his pencil box away and so on, so on…They keep him busy to find something else to do instead of doing his job. They keep telling me how much he doesn’t listen and I can’t do anything about it.

    Today: The teacher said he was very distracted all day. Talking, playing etc. The teacher thought may be it would be better if she move his desk away from the other kids just a little bit. Didn’t separat him just made a little distance, from that moment she got his attention.
    A lot of times they just need a little “adjustment”

    My son’s eye contact got better, since he is in school. Not 100%, but that doesn’t bother me and I never heard anybody complaining about it.

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  • Anmarie Kemp

    Here is the e-mail I sent and I will be following it with a hard copy.

    To All That Are Concerned,

    As a mother to four children on the autism spectrum and as an educational
    advocate I find this behavior unfathomable, but sadly, common. I have had
    considerable opportunities to see it in action first hand. I have been given
    many reasons why the education system believes this is an appropriate manner in
    which to behave, but, the fact is that we are dealing with CHILDREN. I, for one,
    would never teach my children exclusion, bullying, abuse and humiliation as
    character traits that I would like them to model. In fact, I find the lesson the
    teacher taught the other children as injurious as the one that was forced upon
    Alex. A child who affected by autism has a hard enough time navigating their
    school life without the help of an nonsupporting teacher. I suggest to any of
    you willing to try this experiment. Put a pair of earplugs in your ears, wear a
    set of blinders for your eyes and then attend a foreign language class that you
    are not familiar with in a city that you don’t live in. You
    must stay for the whole course, you must always use the sensory limits that are
    stated above and you must pay attention and get your classwork done and done
    correctly. The professor, in your case, may be sensitive to your limitations
    because they are visible to them. However, they may also not care that you CHOSE
    to attend this class accepting these restrictions. They may also chose to ask
    you to leave and not come back until you can demonstrate the proper respect for
    their class room. By all means, you should know better than to come to class in
    that kind of get-up. My children have no choice; it was made for them. They have
    learned to watch their peers for appropriate behaviors, they have been taught,
    by me, to watch their surroundings. It is a process we, as a family, are still
    evolving in. My children have been publicly humiliated also. The results of
    these humiliations are varied. I have witnessed everything from tears to
    attempted suicide. My question to all involved in this
    scandal is why did you feel it necessary and why are you in the education field? I would also
    like to know who deemed you judge and jury over this CHILD’S emotional
    well-being. What possible offense did this child commit to be bullied and
    harassed by the one person who should be teaching acceptance? Not only has this
    child’s emotional state been significantly scarred; but social acceptance is key
    for him to make important and informed decisions later in life. His teachers
    should be high on the list this child can go to for support and guidance. His
    teacher should not be the instigator of a mutiny under ANY circumstances. The
    importance of building and utilizing social skills at an early age is key to
    being able succeed as an adult. Clearly, there is some training required on the
    part of this teacher. This teacher has violated this child’s rights on so many
    levels. There are laws and regulations, both federal and state, that prohibit
    this type of behavior. I can only hope that this
    will serve our country as a lesson to protect, respect and cherish ALL our citizens.

    Anmarie Kemp

    Concord, NH

  • http://www.autismvox.com Kristina Chew, PhD

    From Joey’s Mom: The Bartons have notified the district that they intend to sue.

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  • Jetski

    When I think of all that I suffered psychologically from my so-called peers throughout school as well as the numerous teachers who clearly took my differences as a personal attack upon their status as teachers, well, having the country talking about this pig-ignorant woman’s choice of actions is only the beginning of what I’d like to see happen. What I’d really like is to see her sitting in a room full of “peers” whose firm belief it is, based upon all that society has told them, that she is different and therefore they have the right to say anything they want to her, and all she can do is hope the one authority figure in the room makes them stop instead of sitting contentedly at her desk thinking the victim let herself in for it…

    Of course, if she was sued, I guess she might have had a taste of that. But then, in a court of law, you generally have at least one friend in the room. I and that little boy know how it feels to have none, none at all, anywhere within earshot.

  • Red

    Just imagine,to the horror of the Barton family, that Wendy Portillo runs for Port St. Lucie School superintendent and encourages teachers to her “voting” systems in all classes,not just elementary but middle school and high school,too!
    How long would she last in that job?

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  • http://www.todayslesson-theartofbalance.blogspot.com Lauren

    I realize this is an old post, but I wanted to say that I recently saw on the news a study found that doodling while listening helps people remember more of what they heard! I always doodled on the sides of my notebook pages in HS, but wouldn’t have been allowed in Elementary school.

  • Shelby

    how old is your boy and how much muscle milk do you give him daily? Can you give them too much? Excellent information, got my boy the chewable omega-3 with DHA last night! thanks