When Equal Treatment is not Fair Treatment: a case for more SLT in schools

James and Barry have disagreement in class and disrupt the lesson.  The teacher takes them both to one side, asks for an explanation from both of them and gives them both a playtime detention.

Equal treatment but not fair treatment.

Both boys are bright 12 year olds.  Whilst James is a typically developing child Barry has Asperger’s Syndrome – which brings with it social communication difficulties, anxiety and a delay in his emotional development along with a number of other hidden effects.

Barry’s social communication difficulties meant that he was unable to give his account of the argument accurately, so he said the first thing that came to mind.  He couldn’t process what had happened or use his language skills to explain.  He didn’t understand why James was upset with him (because he also has impaired Theory of Mind) and refused to say sorry.

Barry has a vocabulary of an 18 year old so the staff can’t see why he may need help to explain things.  However, his ability to use language to communicate (a different matter altogether) puts him at about 6 years old – lower when he is anxious.

Because of the Asperger Syndrome Barry presents as a very mature boy and can enjoy lengthy conversations with staff.  However Barry’s emotional development puts him at about 4 years old.  So faced with a consequence that doesn’t seem ‘fair’ his (already high) levels of anxiety are increased.

So far then, his following barriers to learning, all part of his diagnosed disability, have been poorly supported:

  • Anxiety
  • Theory of Mind
  • Social Communication
  • Emotional Development

He feels a meltdown looming so he uses his time out card to go to the Autism Base for some support, to process what has happened and to calm down.  Unfortunately the staff in the Autism Base don’t understand the subtleties of Asperger Syndrome and tell him off for using the card to get himself out of trouble.  Barry makes a mental note to use his safe place less, he thinks ‘maybe its not that safe after all’.

Posted by Peter and Lily’s mum.

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8 thoughts on “When Equal Treatment is not Fair Treatment: a case for more SLT in schools

      1. Sadly, no… I’m still naive enough to be shocked that all school staff do not take account of this sort of responsibility all the time, as a natural condition of their professional competence. Isn’t it the 21st century, for goodness’ sake? I think our autistic kids have a better idea of what’s fair than many NT adults!


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