Friday, January 29, 2010

Please keep helping Zakh Price

I’m writing this because it’s important that we not lose steam in the fight for Zakh Price and kids like him across the country. In doing so, I would like to reiterate some of the important issues at stake here.

Zakh is eleven and is being charged as a felon for assault because he struggled against two adults trying to perform a restraint on him that was against his IEP (Individual Education Plan). During the struggle he kicked one of the adults who happened to be the principal. This was not an act of malice or anything close to a felony crime unless you have quite an imagination.

If this conviction succeeds, Zakh will be institutionalized and robbed of his educational future. This may well shape him forever as an adult. Please think about that.

A felon by the way is a dangerous criminal, gangster thugs and drug dealers are good examples of felons. Not only does Zakh have no criminal record, but he’s in the boy scouts as well.

If that isn’t enough to take action and help out even a little, with a postcard or two, consider this:

A successful conviction will create case law that can be used to shape court decisions for generations to come. So, if your children don’t have autism, can you say 100% sure that theirs won’t or won’t have special needs in some way? Is this how you want your child treated when all they need is some help? If we don’t stand against this now and work to make some changes, future generations will suffer greatly.

Don’t lull yourself into thinking that this is only happening in Arkansas either. It’s happening across our country in various schools. Some of these schools have even earned a death record. I’ve blogged on them before. Currently I am collecting information for a special report. Zakh’s case will be part of that report along with any families that I can find with problems anywhere similar.

Here’s what I’m asking you to do. Send a postcard to the prosecutor in Forth Smith, Arkansas and tell him that you can’t believe what they are doing. Write: Help Zakh Price.

Are you a blogger? Please write for all your readers and let them know about Zakh’s plight. It doesn’t matter what kind of blog you are on or what kind of website you have. You are helping kids who may grow up and become part of your blog or website. Consider it an investment in the future. And send those postcards, as many as you can. They don’t cost that much and enough of us can send a heavy handed message. Just be sure to stay respectable, because this is a peaceful protest. Here are those addresses again:

Dan Shue Prosecuter, 901 South B street, Fort Smith, AR 72901

Hon Gov Mike Beebe, State Capitol Room 250, Little Rock, AR 72201

Hon Mayor C. Ray Baker Jr., PO Box 1908, Fort Smith, AR 72902

Dr. Benny Gooden (School district supervisor), 3205 Jenny Lind Rd, Fort Smith, AR 72902

Dr. Deanie Mehl (President of the School Board), 3205 Jenny Lind Rd, Fort Smith, AR 72902

Pam Siebenmorgan (Principal of Beard Elementary), 1600 Cavanaugh Rd, Fort Smith, AR 72908

Has your family had trouble getting stubborn school staff to follow IEP’s or help your child? Send me a message about it. You could be in my report!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

New Plan for Zakh Price

Zakh Price, an eleven year old autistic boy who faces felony charges that couldn’t be more trumped up with an air compressor. As if that weren’t enough for his troubled family to deal with, there’s more. Despite what must be hundreds of emails pleading for sanity in his case, the prosecutor could care less. Despite what must be hundreds of emails and a twitter to at least 80,000 people, just one news agency has yet to step forward. Apparently, the story just isn’t juicy enough for any of them. Yes, I’m being a very harsh critic at this point.

What the agencies then, are failing to grasp, is that Zakh isn’t alone. This is an epidemic in the educational system that’s routinely throwing special needs children out the window, right along with their educational futures. Sure, it’s against the law. Sure, there are federal laws on giving them a proper education. Sure, there’s IDEA and “no child left behind”. None of it matters one iota. Why do I say that? Because all the agencies who are supposed to step up and defend kids like Zakh, are failing. I’ve heard from numerous people that the ACLU and state advocacy centers in several states just aren’t interested. So, instead of getting fair and just representation, families are forced into costs in the thousands to try and fight for their children’s rights. That is WRONG.

So clearly, something bigger needs to be done. Starting with the case of young Zakh Price, I have a huge idea. Let’s look at what hasn’t worked so far:

1: Emails: too easily erased and obviously just not working.

2: Contacting government: No response from them, but then they need to see more don’t they?

3: Media: They want more juice? Let’s give it to them.

I’m calling on all of you, and anyone who can pick up a pencil and a few cheap postcards. This is how to help Zakh Price and light a fuse for legal rights of these kids.

All of you, ALL OF YOU. Go to your local post office and pick up a bundle of cheap prepostage post cards. So easy to do, and cheap! Fill them out. Put an address for one of the people regarding Zakh’s case on each one and write just three words on the other side:
HELP ZAKH PRICE. If you want to jot a couple extra respectable things, go for it. But make sure those three words are unmistakable. Then pass this instruction on to everyone you can. Write a letter too if you feel like it, but make sure those words are still loud and clear.

We don’t want 10 or 20 postcards in those mailboxes, not 50 or 100 either, THOUSANDS. And we don’t want to stop until we get action.

So we can’t gather to make a picket line, then let’s mail one. Here are the addresses and people to write to (remember to be polite, but firm):

Dan Shue Prosecuter, 901 South B street, Fort Smith, AR 72901

Hon Gov Mike Beebe, State Capitol Room 250, Little Rock, AR 72201

Hon Mayor C. Ray Baker Jr., PO Box 1908, Fort Smith, AR 72902

Dr. Benny Gooden (School district supervisor), 3205 Jenny Lind Rd, Fort Smith, AR 72902

Dr. Deanie Mehl (President of the School Board), 3205 Jenny Lind Rd, Fort Smith, AR 72902

Pam Siebenmorgan (Principal of Beard Elementary), 1600 Cavanaugh Rd, Fort Smith, AR 72908

Want to add someone to this list? Feel free, but these are the primary people that need the info. Oh, maybe a few news agencies would like some. Feel free to add them too.

Then do it again. And again.

Come on people, this isn’t just one child we are trying to help here, but all of our special needs kids being arrested and persecuted.

It’s time to get their attention. It’s time to take action. Lets go.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Why we are so gung ho on autism

I was once asked, not real long ago, why I just “don’t tell” anyone that I have a form of autism. Why am I so gung ho about the autistic community and advocacy? Why is it so important that people are educated about autism?

Well, personally, I have tried this. It doesn’t work because there’s always something that happens that someone wants explained. Like when I flinch because of a movement I caught out of the corner of my eye and someone gets all offended over it. Yes, this has actually happened. I can’t help how my nerves react. They are turned up 10x what you would call “normal”. It gives me a startle reaction that’s completely involuntary. Much like what happens when the doctor tests the reflexes in your knee with that little rubber hammer. So there’s a choice here, explain and try to educate you, or just put up with ignorant judgments over things I can’t control. And this is just a minor example of the stigma that is all over the autistic community and others with disorders/disabilities. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg in answering that “why” question.

Just how ignorant can stigma get? Let me share with you a conversation I had with a woman who claimed to have a teaching degree. This conversation was held online on face book and you can find it at the Nancy Grace fan page. These are the things this woman said in this discussion:

" retarded and autistic children do not belong in school with the rest of our children"

" I believe the government should mandate parents with special children that once they have 1 mentally challenged child they are never allowed to have more kids."

"Well my son has to have the same lunch period with the SPECIAL kids. That xxxes me off that he has to look at that “xxx” while he’s eating"

The x’s are for her colorful language. I’m sure you can fill in the blanks. Ignorance spreads ignorance and if we do nothing, innocent people get hurt. Stigma, discrimination, prejudice and what ever else you want to call it, hurts. It can destroy lives. It’s supposed to be illegal for employers to discriminate on disabilities, but it still happens. When teachers, employers, and even just your basic passer-by do things like this and shun people for no good reason, they spread stigma and hurt innocents. So that is why I am so gung ho to advocate on autism. I am defending others to include my own children. Wouldn’t you?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Autistic boy slapped with felony assault

Zakh Price is 11 years old and holds a functioning IQ of 68, as far as anyone knows. It’s really hard to believe they know enough about this child at all since they want to have him charged with felony assault. Did I mention he has autism?

Zakh’s family literally begged the school district in Arkansas for an IEP and were denied. Even when one was finally established, it wasn’t followed. The school personnel ignored all advice on how to properly deal with Zakh and that led to disaster. In October he had a behavior incident caused by his autism and they chose to try an restrain him. In doing so, they cornered him and triggered a fight or flight response. Two staff were injured and they called the police on this child. The failing against this boy just continued as they took him away in handcuffs.

First of all, restraint is not meant to be a forced manhandling and arm twisting when it comes to a disturbed child. It must be done with great care and as a last resort to protect the child from harming him/herself or others. It is NOT a punishment for destruction of property, breaking a pencil or tearing up a piece of paper kind of baloney.

The charges are a complete miscarriage of justice. They apparently would have you believe that Zakh Price had a choice in “assaulting” the staff. They need to try and see it through his eyes. How well would you react to being mobbed, grabbed forcibly and yanked around? That may not have been the staff’s intention based on my words, but I guarantee you its exactly how it felt through Zakh’s autistic nerves.

That damage is now mentally compounded by slapping handcuffs on him in front of his peers (like having a meltdown isn’t embarrassing enough) and hauling him off to jail like a hardened criminal. Mark my words, Arkansas, you are robbing this child of any chance at educational success or a functional future. And I have to believe that Zakh is not alone.

Why do I address the State level? Because they should be stepping in on this, that’s why. The State government of Arkansas should be appalled at the lack of professional behavior and handling, punishing a child for having a condition he cannot control. They should be leaping in to action, even if just to save face, but certainly for the sake of a child.

I think every organization we have should be pounding on the school systems doors right now. It’s clear to me, from reading Zakh Price’s story across multiple websites and blogs, that the education and judicial system of Arkansas needs and overhaul. Especially in the light of special needs children.

Zakh has a hearing coming up on his felony charges and the family is struggling trying to find an attorney who will take the case and not the clothes off their backs with it. Because of how so many sites don’t like links, I invite you to check out my face book page for a link to the article or just google his name, it’s everywhere. Please try to think, think what if it were your child? Wouldn’t you be infuriated? As a member of the autistic community, I am.