The day after it was decided that A could be in the class, I received another letter. This letter was a surprise because, I had no idea that this student was thinking of band.
B is another student who also happens to be Autistic. B is the complete opposite of A. B is quiet to the point of invisibility. B was very hard to draw out, but by the end of our 4 months together, B was raising his or her hand to read aloud, dancing in class, and trying to play recorder. B Loved to draw and dance and never said a word about playing an instrument in band.
So when I received this heartfelt letter with the phrase “please call!” at the end, I was surprised.
I called B’s parent’s and found out they too wanted to try band for B. I thought that considering B’s temperament that he or she would be safe around other students. I’m not sure about B being able to play an instrument any more so than I am sure A will be able too. It depends on them and me adapting of course.
B’s parents were also not sure, but we already had guidelines in place for A so, we used the same for B. If B didn’t want to be in band after giving it a good try, or if he or she causes any safety issues or damages equipment he or she would be taken out of the class. I’ve seen B withdraw when triggered but never turn to violence. She seemed genuinely interested in just trying to make music, any music.
Again, we just wanted to give her the chance to try.
Then, I learned B’s family could not afford an instrument. Was there anything I could do? This request reminded me of a program that allows deserving students to borrow an instrument for free. I wasn’t sure if B could do the program. Not to be ridiculous but, people have ideas about Autism. They have mental images of what Autism looks like, acts like.
What if B couldn’t do this program? What if there are restrictions against who can and cannot be eligible? What if only a certain number of people can do it per school?
I was as forthright as possible. I explained I’d never had a student with Autism in band before. I wasn’t sure if the program had restrictions. I apologized for how that sounded, and for even thinking it. B’s parents assured me my thoughts were unfortunately, not in the wrong. Which is sad.
I promised to contact the company representative via email. The parents of B assured me if that didn’t pan out, maybe many relatives could chip in with payments. It really didn’t sound like they were convinced.
After that call was done, I composed an email. I explained the situation and how gentle and calm B was. How B was shy, and this might be a good thing for B. To please consider B for the program!
I clicked send and sat there feeling hopeful. We would try our best. B and A would have the best band experience I could offer….
A’s parents also wanted a school’s instrument for A. I thought of renting and instrument for the simple reason of his or her violence. I never even thought of the special program for A. It never even came to mind.
What is wrong with me? Yes, A’s parents are willing to rent. They aren’t made out of money, though. How could I have seemingly, on paper offered one student one thing and another something else? On paper they are both Autistic yet I wanted one to rent and one to borrow for free? How is that equal?
Yes, there are conditions to this free program. If B damages the instrument badly, B’s family must replace the entire instrument. Also, students who are referred are referred because the band director knows they will take proper care of the instrument, and return it in good re-sellable condition. They really must be students who cannot afford to rent and I think there is a per school limit. Putting aside the limit, and vouching for the instruments care, what really worried me was temperament.
I don’t think B would damage an instrument , but did I KNOW A would for sure harm one either?
Is it my place to just decide this?
I spoke about my dilemma with two people and they say, it’s not wrong that I forgot about the program at first, it truly didn’t come to mind.
That’s just being human there.
Now here’s where each person’s opinions differ. One person says it’s okay I forgot, it wasn’t out of malice. It really didn’t come to mind because the parents said they could rent. However, now that I know/ remember about the program, I should offer the program to A as well. Only if he or she is able to be accepted in the first place; find out if students with Autism are able to qualify. Also, only tell the family about the program if we can have 3 students eligible. It was offered to B first, if only B can be added, there’s no sense bringing it up to cause possible hurt feelings. So the bottom line, find out then tell (if it lines up).
The second advice is this: the program is only for students who are deserving, unable to rent due to family income, and who can return the instrument in good working order. While no one can ensure the instrument won’t be lost in a house fire, heaven forbid, it’s the teacher and the representative’s good word that the family won’t run off with the instrument or damage it beyond repair. We are in essence, libel. Most likely financially or just through being able to use the program itself.
Knowing A’s history, just from my classroom, I can’t in good conscience ask. If there is a good chance of destruction, there’s no reason to ask. Even then, his or her parents have not said they cannot afford to rent.
Now both students are deserving but, have I offered the program to every child that cannot afford band?
Well, no I haven’t. Besides the idea there may be a borrowing cap, I have to really judge these students on character. Not everyone meets all 3 criteria.
Technically, neither does A.
Then the second person asked if the reason I am worried about this is because both students are Autistic and I’m trying to treat them equally? Well I suppose I am.
Their advice was to treat them fairly, not equally.
Also to not freak out about it until I hear back from the program. I have one student already in the program, plus if B is approved, then two. Three might be pushing it.
Talking to my representative about the situation all around, may be the best corse of action. We just don’t know until we ask. Since A’s family wants to wait to rent until a big instrument open house this Thursday, there is still time to ask questions.
And I will. Do you think I’ve done the ethical thing or have I grossly strayed? What’s your advice?
(Original Image Britannica.com)