An Autistic Atheist in a Roman Catholic School

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Discussion by: marokaal
Hello all,

I know by the title of this post you might say why did you do that, but for my son, the school we have sent him to was the best option for him in terms of the support he gets.

My son is 13 years, loves school, his favorite subject is I.T, he is doing well in all his classes except R.E – he won’t partisipate in lessons and hs to be taken to a different room to do other things – and going to a RC school his misses out on a few of the school trips.

When he was younger he did believe in god, at the age of 7 he decided to be atheist.(his choice)

I have tried to explain to him that they aren’t trying to make him have the same views as them and that christianity is a fairly intresting subject as are all religons but he just refuses to go to any of the classes.

I am an atheist myself, my other children -19yrs – atheist, 9yrs – christian and 7yrs – christian (all their own choices)

10 COMMENTS

  1. Hello Marokall,
    Where are you? My son has Aspergers (fairly mild) but here in Australia most of the Catholic schools don’t have any special needs units or much extra support for anyone with special needs. Point of contention among us state (public) school teachers as the private sector (usually religious) get equivalent funding from government but pick and choose who they take or let go. Many students have been told to leave because they don’t have sufficient funding to cater to their needs.

    Anyway good on you for not trying to impose your beliefs on them.

    • In reply to #1 by Reckless Monkey:

      Hello Marokall,

                   Where are you?  My son has Aspergers (fairly mild) but here in Australia most of the Catholic schools don't have any special needs units or much extra support for anyone with special needs.  Point of contention among us state (public) school teachers as the private sector (usually religious) get equivalent funding from government but pick and choose who they take or let go.  Many students have been told to leave because they don't have sufficient funding to cater to their needs.
      

      Anyway good on you for not trying to impose your beliefs on them.

      Hi Reckless Monkey,

      We live in Surrey, UK and there is a specialist autism school about 5/10mins by car, but it is in a different LEA – Surrey County Council, we are in Kingston Council.and his school is only a few mins walk from our house

      Our application was turned down :(

  2. I take it that either you want him to attend R.E. yourself, or that the school has made it a requirement for him to stay on?

    Either way, I think first you have to find out (if you haven’t already) why exactly he doesn’t want to. Is it because he simply doesn’t like it, because he doesn’t want to betray his own principles and attend what he perceives as a charade, or perhaps because he has a low tolerance for what he thinks is bullshit?

    The approach varies with every cause. At some point even autistic children have to learn that not everybody thinks the same as they do, or require things they don’t like. Try to make him understand that in attending this class he would be doing his dad/mum a big favour and helping himself get a full education and better understanding of the world.
    Assure him that merely by attending, he isn’t pretending. He will never be required to profess his belief in god(s), or behave like a theist. If the school does at some point ask this of him, were I the parent, I would get him out of there immediately and homeschool if necessary. Principles matter too.

    Good luck with the situation, it cannot be easy.

    • In reply to #2 by Sjoerd Westenborg:

      I take it that either you want him to attend R.E. yourself, or that the school has made it a requirement for him to stay on?

      Either way, I think first you have to find out (if you haven’t already) why exactly he doesn’t want to. Is it because he simply doesn’t like it, because he doesn’t want to betray his own principles and attend what he perceives as a charade, or perhaps because he has a low tolerance for what he thinks is bullshit?

      The approach varies with every cause. At some point even autistic children have to learn that not everybody thinks the same as they do, or require things they don’t like. Try to make him understand that in attending this class he would be doing his dad/mum a big favour and helping himself get a full education and better understanding of the world.
      Assure him that merely by attending, he isn’t pretending. He will never be required to profess his belief in god(s), or behave like a theist. If the school does at some point ask this of him, were I the parent, I would get him out of there immediately and homeschool if necessary. Principles matter too.

      Good luck with the situation, it cannot be easy.

      Hi Sjoerd

      For the school the religon is part of the issue and they want him to attend, but for both myself and the school it is the missing out on the social interaction with his peers that is the issue, He has come a long way since his first words at the age of 5,and he hasn’t had a meltdown for 2 years, I have explained to him that they are not going to force him to become a RC, and with the interaction of a class he can learn how to put his own view across in a calm way

  3. I find myself needing a little more information regarding a few issues.

    First, how pervasive is his autism?

    Second, how does the public school system work in your country? As has been intimated above, the public schools in the US are better equipped to handle children with special needs.

    Third, (I have a 13 year old son, too) what are his specific complaints about attending the class? I see that you have said that for you and the school it is the social aspect that is concerning you. If it were me, I’d try to work as a partner with the school to somehow have your son meet with a different group of kids during that portion of his day. Maybe an extra gym class for him or an extra IT class. He will still have the structure of the bell schedule as well as perhaps meeting some new kids.

    • In reply to #5 by crookedshoes:

      Second, how does the public school system work in your country? As has been intimated above, the public schools in the US are better equipped to handle children with special needs.

      Hi crookedshoes,
      If you are referring to my post above I’m actually Australian, more specifically Queensland (arguably the most conservative state in Australia. States have different education systems although there is a National Curriculum being implemented as I write this.

      I am a high school teacher. In Australia public school means government funded and free to all. Private schools are mostly religious and although they receive the same money from government per student (in fact slightly more in some cases) they are not required to do the same job. That is they can pick or choose who attends. State schools cannot reject a student due to academic ability, private schools can, state school cannot just cancel enrolment before 17 on the basis of poor behaviour (except in exception circumstances), private schools can, and relevant to this post many of the private schools in our country (all in my town- 5 religious high schools) none have a special needs program, while many will have some special needs students, anyone who is considerably disabled is forced to use the state school system. As a state school teacher, starved of funds I have watched over my career the private (mostly religious) schools scraping the top students from our system with better resourcing due to them not having to cater to the needs of the less fortunate and crowing about their successes while refusing to educate any student with learning or behavioural difficulties. Now I’m sure there are religious schools in Australia that do cater well for children with Aspergers or any other disability but none in my area, and yet they get the same money per student without the same responsibilities. The other factor of significance between the systems in UK (thanks marokaal) and here is you can send your children to any state school you choose your address is not relevant.

      • Your description of the state of affairs there in Queensland is very very similar to the situation in the US. I also teach in the public school system and although (I think) we fund it differently and you are geographically bound to your local public school, the rest of your description seems to line up with ours here in the US.

        The reason I asked was because the public system in the US (well, in the Atlantic North East) is well staffed and trained to handle students with Asperger’s.

        The district I work for has an unbelievable commitment to helping (in particular), mentally challenged youngsters. My wife works in a small private school (Catholic) and they are much less prepared or equipped to serve children with special needs. That is why I was seeking a little clarification. Thanks, your explanation was great.

        In reply to #6 by Reckless Monkey:

        In reply to #5 by crookedshoes:

        Second, how does the public school system work in your country? As has been intimated above, the public schools in the US are better equipped to handle children with special needs.

        Hi crookedshoes,

                       If you are referring to my post above I'm actually Australian, more specifically Queensland (arguably the most conservative state in Australia.  States have different education systems although there is a National Curriculum being implemented as I write this.  
        

        I am a high school teacher. In Australia public school means government funded and free to all. Private schools are mostly religious and although they receive the same money from government per student (in fact slightly more in some cases) they are not required to do the same job. That is they can pick or choose who attends. State schools cannot reject a student due to academic ability, private schools can, state school cannot just cancel enrolment before 17 on the basis of poor behaviour (except in exception circumstances), private schools can, and relevant to this post many of the private schools in our country (all in my town- 5 religious high schools) none have a special needs program, while many will have some special needs students, anyone who is considerably disabled is forced to use the state school system. As a state school teacher, starved of funds I have watched over my career the private (mostly religious) schools scraping the top students from our system with better resourcing due to them not having to cater to the needs of the less fortunate and crowing about their successes while refusing to educate any student with learning or behavioural difficulties. Now I’m sure there are religious schools in Australia that do cater well for children with Aspergers or any other disability but none in my area, and yet they get the same money per student without the same responsibilities. The other factor of significance between the systems in UK (thanks marokaal) and here is you can send your children to any state school you choose your address is not relevant.

  4. Interesting. The US public schools are much better at helping a special needs child. The RC schools, on the other hand, are horrendous. They will even “encourage” parents to take a child out of their schools (not necessarily in a positive way.) They will even trample on the Family Leave Act if it is for their benefit. If your a handicapped child, it’s best to steer clear of RC schools.

    • In reply to #8 by QuestioningKat:

      Interesting. The US public schools are much better at helping a special needs child. The RC schools, on the other hand, are horrendous. They will even “encourage” parents to take a child out of their schools (not necessarily in a positive way.) They will even trample on the Family Leave Act if it is for their benefit. If your a handicapped child, it’s best to steer clear of RC schools.

      In the UK special needs provision is patchy, some schools do manage to have special autism units but more often than not they deal with children on an individual basis. Often the RC state schools are very good with special needs children. The problem over here is funding as often it is difficult for parents to get the statements for their children that allow the extra funding the schools need for things like teaching assistants.

      In this case it sounds like the school was the best available option and the only problem seems to be not going to some of the classes which the school seems to be ok with? So I’m not sure what the problem is.

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