The Autistic Journalist

Using words to explain the mind

Fifth grade autistic boy charged with felony

with 4 comments

Photo by Carole Reynolds, used in examiner.com

A colleague of mine alerted me to this article that was published last week in examiner.com. It’s an editorial from Robin Hansen for the online magazine’s special education section. She does a fair amount of reporting though, which focuses on a rare felony charge against an Arkansas boy who isn’t even a teenager yet.

Zakhquery Price was charged by two school staff members who were injured while attempting to restrain him following an incident last October. His grandmother argues that the incident was caused by his school failing to accommodate suggestions in his Individual Education Plan (IEP, used to help students who are mentally and/or physically disabled progress in the school system. His hearing is scheduled for January 12th, and a psychologist hired by the school recommends having Zak in a mental hospital.

You can tell the writer doesn’t have a journalistic background as the article is sprinkled with spelling and other grammatical errors. However, writing as more of a columnist, she clearly takes the family’s side, arguing that Zak hasn’t been educated or treated properly (according to the article, his IQ is 68). We also only hear one side of the story from Zak’s grandmother. I’ve alluded to he-said/she-said stories before; it’s almost impossible to know if we’re being told the truth from human sources alone as relatives or friends sometimes defend their own, even if indisputable evidence links the accused person to a crime. However, if Zak’s grandmother is telling the truth about what happened to her grandson and the school he was enrolled in, this would be the latest example of neurotypicals acting oblivious to their environment. From an anecdotal perspective, people on the outside kept autism hidden from view even at the turn of last decade (I’m starting to date myself now). These types of stories often attract more attention in the news than school employees working to improve the lives of kids who would otherwise be cast off as useless. Filing criminal charges against a kid who possibly had no knowledge on appropriately expressing emotional frustration is an indicator that employees at the school would rather not deal with him instead of assisting him, but this is pure speculation. Since his grandmother appears to be the primary caregiver for Zak, one element that many readers are likely wondering is why his parents aren’t quoted. No one can truly say why, but it would be disturbing to find out his parents have abandoned him.

As the GLBT community continues to discover that ignorance and intolerance still exist in their fight for equal rights, this article shows that autism isn’t immune to the ills of social justice either.

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Written by TheSportsBrain

January 4, 2010 at 1:03 pm

4 Responses

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  1. Much reporting is biased in some form, but no matter how this ends up, it is very sad because as one of the commenters in the examiner.com article says, everyone has failed Zakh in some way.

    Laura Overstreet

    January 5, 2010 at 2:44 pm

    • It should be noted that journalistic objectives are different here than in other countries, which is often an oxymoron given our economic structure. I should also point out that journalists are on constant deadlines and may not have the resources to address what they want. In this case, this was a special education guru writing. I don’t intend to criticize her reporting, just listing ideas for future inquiries on this topic.

      You’re right about people failing Zak. Even if one person offered appropriate intervention for his condition, this discussion may have never existed.

      sportsbrain09

      January 5, 2010 at 2:56 pm

  2. Sportsbrain:

    I am not sure if you are familiar of the Examiner website. You may not be aware that he writers are not professional journalists. You can read a bit more about how writers are selected here:

    http://www.examiner.com/assets/examinerfaq.html

    Spelling and grammar are a criteria for selection though.

    RehaDesign

    January 10, 2010 at 12:52 pm

    • I’ve heard about the Examiner and was once approached by them to contribute material. I do recall that writers selected aren’t journalists by trade, but they do report in their areas of expertise.

      It wasn’t so much the content that bugged me; it was the grammatical errors that left a questionable impression.

      sportsbrain09

      January 10, 2010 at 2:01 pm


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