Saturday, May 12, 2007

Educating Eric

He killed his principal. The man who gave him shoes.

It's front page Saturday/Sunday Weekend Edition, WSJ, May 12, 2007 and you CAN'T read it on-line, I'm sorry, although there are some excellent graphs in the Journal about special education and a video. Go out and buy this edition of WSJ if you can. It's an incredible story.

I'll quote it liberally here to show you that diagnosis is not easy and that the causes of violence are multivariate.

Eric Hainsock

Eric was a troubled boy who threatened others, who threatened suicide, who had an ADHD diagnosis, who bullied and was bullied, who disrupted class, whose parents divorced when he was a toddler, who lived with his father, who relished hunting and fishing with his father, who missed his mother who promised gifts that didn't arrive, who rolled on the floor in class making pig noises, who was beaten by his father with a paddle, who needed Ritalin but didn't take it because his father said he didn't need it, who needed a special school but didn't go because his father said he didn't need it, who came to school disheveled and smelling of smoke from the wood-burning stove that heated his home, whose head was held down in a toilet by other students at school, who failed over and over again at his studies, who chose to sit in a wastebasket in class, who brought a shotgun and a pistol to school 2 years ago, not intending to shoot either, he says.

Who accidentally killed his high school principal with the pistol after the maintenance engineer wrestled away the rifle.

Now Eric sits in a jail cell and talks to reporters. He is schooled by a teacher who pays him daily visits at prison. He's making A's and B's.

Robert Tomsho and Daniel Golden, journalists who posted the story from Cazenovia, Wisconsin make the point that Eric should never have been mainstreamed. He was in need of special education and he didn't get it. When he has individualized attention (as he is has in prison) he's able to learn and seems happy. Had he had CONTAINED special education, Mr. Klang, the man he shot and killed, would be alive today.

Diagnose Eric? What's the point?

His mom is probably alcoholic (I say that because she made promises and didn't keep them). His dad was overwhelmed and didn't parent well. For sure Eric was depressed, for sure he had learning problems. He had SOCIAL problems, maybe Asperger's, who knows. I will tell you what I've learned about that disorder soon. Misunderstood is a good way to describe individuals with Asperger's. WSJ blames mainstreaming, and who wouldn't agree, considering that streaming clearly wasn't a good idea.

I like how the way the journalists put it, actually, "troubled." His dx, for everyone had at least one, the social worker, the psychologist, the educators, didn't save Mr. Klang's life.

Oh, and did I mention there were 2 guns? Guns don't kill people. People who HAVE guns kill people.



Anonymous said...

My daughter's school is a dumping ground for all the county's kids with disabilities -- both mental and physical.

To say mainstreaming fails kids with disabilities is true, AND it also fails the rest of the kids as well. Yep, a whole school failed by whoever thought up this brilliant idea.

therapydoc said...

Well, it WAS a good idea at the time. I remember being a school social worker in 1979 and doing IEPs, individualized educational programs, for children with special needs. At that time the thinking was that special needs children needed to be with the rest of the kids to AVOID being teased and stigmatized. We didn't know anything about Asperger's, for example, in the late seventies (the English documentation of the disorder was done in 1981 by Frith). So it was a good idea. We had no idea how much help it would take for some kids to adjust and feel "good" in school. Now we know that "feeling good" about school should probably be a top drawer IEP consideration.

Anonymous said...

So many experts, so many mistakes ...
Sounds like his life was void of love and positive attention, very sad results.

therapydoc said...

From the article I don't think he had NO positive attention or love. Those who knew he needed a special school were stymied-- the boy's father refused the help-- perhaps because he loved him and had fears of permanent loss. My guess is we'll see the movie.

Ellen said...

It's said. I think that he would have had an easier life if people had listened to him. Kids need to be listened to and believed. But that's hard to do if you dont trust adults. Sorry situation

Alice said...

"Guns don't kill people" is such a strange argument. It's technically, grammatically, correct. But guns make it SO much easier for people to die in situations they simply would not otherwise have died in, and that's so obvious.

Just about everywhere else in the world people think it's really bizzare to hear how often this phrase is repeated in the US.

The VAST majority of the UK population have never even seen a real-life gun, much less ever had to fear that the people they work with, go to school with, or pass in the street might be carrying one.

Fewer people die, I promise you.

What's Going to Be with Our Kids?