Autistic boy, 12, eagerly waits to go back to school

TORONTO – Christian Thorndyke, 12, is a boy who loves to go to school.

“I find it’s fun learning, I like being involved with other children, and recess and gym class. I really love learning and going to school,” Christian told Global News.

But for the past few months Christian has been at home – being taught by his mother because the schools he has attended in the past have told her they cannot handle Christian and he should stay at home until a solution can be found.

This has left Christian’s mother furious saying he is being denied the right to go to school. Christian says he feels he is being rejected by the Peel District School Board.

Karen Thorndyke with her son Christian at their home in Mississauga.
Karen Thorndyke with her son Christian at their home in Mississauga. (Angie Seth/Global News)

“They are denying me an education saying I cannot handle it anymore and here I am just sitting at home,” Christian said.

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His Mother, Karen Thorndyke says Christian has become depressed and anxious.

“Christian went downhill quick after being at so many schools and not being supported. It’s caused him nightmares and really low self esteem. He at times wanted to kill himself, he’s choked himself,” Thorndyke said. “He has expressed to many workers involved in our case, him being secluded in the schools and not being around other children has caused him depression.”

As a child with autism, Christian can have loud outbursts that can often appear violent.

His mother says he will scream, swear, even try to hurt himself. In an incident at a school Christian became agitated resulting in the teaching assistant putting him in a separate room as a way to calm him down.

These areas, called alternative learning environments, are separate areas located in the school to give children with behavioural needs a safe, separate space to calm themselves when feeling agitated.

The child is supervised and never left alone and some rooms are padded for the child’s safety.

According to the Peel District School board’s Positive Behaviour Intervention Plan: “Physical removal of a student to a Time Out area is an intervention that will be used only in the event that the student’s behaviour presents an immediate, clear and unavoidable danger to him/herself or others, and the student has failed to respond to other, less intrusive interventions.”

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In Christian’s case the room did not help but rather made him more agitated. To make matters worse, at the particular school, Christian alleges he was locked in the room.

“I was starting to have blow ups in class and the teaching assistant would lock me in a room with a chair in front of it so I would not be able to get out,” Christian said. “He would also record me on his phone which would escalate me even more and I would eventually pee myself. He yelled at me, gave me mop and told me to clean it up.”

Christian’s mother says she was mortified.

Global News spoke directly to the Superintendent of Special Education at the Peel District School Board, Louise Sirisko. In an email response she said:

“Urination is a behaviour that some students demonstrate while they are needing our specialized support.  The allegation that the student was provided a mop and bucket and asked to clean up is new to us.  The Principal of the school is not aware that this happened or is true.  This practice would be unacceptable and if brought to our attention, fully investigated.”

Trying to find the right school for their children is one of the many issues parents with Autistic children face every year.

Groups like Autism Ontario say the solution lies in a collaborative effort between parents, the teachers, and properly trained support staff.

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“Soft suspensions don’t work, it’s reinforcing the behaviour. If the environment is not supportive the child is going to try to get out of it,” said Katharine Buchan, a Education Ontario Coordinator with Autism Ontario.

Christian says he wants to go back to school despite what the school board says.

“They are denying me an education saying I cannot handle it anymore and here I am just sitting at home”, he tells Global News. When asked if you could handle things, he confidently told us he could.

Soon after speaking with the Peel District School Board, Global News was informed that the Superintendent will be getting in touch with Christian’s mother to discuss his case and put together a concrete plan to get him back into a proper school full time.

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