I was interviewed by a local television reporter the other night regarding the Orono school lockdown — and about why I donated to the family of the boy who made these threats.
The piece aired, and so much was cut from it that I need to say a few more things.
First, I have several friends whose children attend Orono schools. I got firsthand accounts of what their kids were doing during the lockdown and afterward what they are talking about. They are talking about feelings they had during the lockdown and even starting to joke about how happy they are to be able to eat lunch. They have already started to heal.
They need to keep talking about this trauma with counselors, therapists and support groups. My friend told me how her son was texting her and how they could not go to the bathroom or eat all day. This day will scar them for life.
I would have been more than a hot mess had my child been at the school that day. I don’t blame these parents for saying “Throw the book at this kid who made the threat” or “It’s bad parenting” or “No excuses.” They have every right.
However, the GoFundMe page was set up to help the family of the boy who made the threat. He has autism. As a parent of a child with autism, I know this is our worst nightmare.
After a diagnosis, there is the challenge of finding a school where they have the needed services; there is taking your child to doctor appointments to see if medication can help with behavior; there is trying to fit your child into the mainstream; there is, every day, dealing with society’ definition of “normal” — which is simply not available to your child.
This child does need a punishment for his behavior — so all the haters can stop. None of us with kids on the spectrum would disagree.
But if I told my child he was grounded he first wouldn’t know what that even means and wouldn’t care because he is home all the time. The punishment would be pointless. You would not take away car privileges from a 3-year-old. The punishment does not fit the child — where he or she is at.
We all deserve this much. To be met where we are at. I am sure the parents and therapists who work daily with this child know what his currency is that will make him understand what he did was wrong — really wrong.
Autistic kids can be punished by cutting their sandwich the wrong way. Each one is unique as a snowflake in what sets them off or triggers. One size does not fit all. Not all kids with autism are able to think in the same way anymore than are all tall kids able to play basketball.
This child’s being locked in a juvenile detention facility could mean 10 years of work down the drain and 10 more years of PTSD and far worse behavior.
What if the GoFundMe page did two things? The young man could get therapy he needs while getting consequences that are appropriate for his difference. The school could provide speakers to discuss autism and how this could have happened.
Knowledge is power. I know as a parent that I would welcome this for my child and myself. Give people more information so they can process and heal. Every person who was touched by this could have a teaching moment. A moment of empathy, knowledge of autism and what it means to forgive.
This was a trauma of epic proportions. But how we handle this trauma as a society, as a family and as a community is the ultimate lesson learned. Orono is a community showing the rest of us compassion and understanding while dealing with a life-altering event.
There is always a silver lining — or, as some of us would call it, love.
Deb Sposito lives in Plymouth.