Autism – Justified?

So, the backstory…

A friend of mine has a 10 year old kid who has been diagnosed with a very mild case of autism. He has some difficulty in school. I agreed to spend 1 hour a week over Skype helping her kids out with their maths and science schoolwork, because the school they attend has apparently pretty poor teachers in that regard. The school has not been very understanding of this son’s special needs, and given that they live in a regional town with minimal educational facilities, my friend doesn’t have the option to send her children to another school. They do not in any way have the financial ability to send him away to a boarding school with appropriate facilities and better trained staff.

In and of itself, I can deal with helping out her son. His case of autism isn’t extreme, and he does seem to be genuinely interested in science. Or more to the point, blowing stuff up, but perhaps that’s telling…

My problem is that my friend’s son is a violent bully. The teachers and administrators at the school are threatening to not just to suspend him, but to expel him entirely. He has no other school to go to. My friend is claiming that the violence and bullying which her son is responsible for (nobody is denying he’s the one doing it), is in fact due to the autism. My understanding of autism was that it was a learning disorder, not that it was responsible for violent or bullying behaviour. I understand that kids with autism might lash out if they don’t understand something, but when they’re the ones instigating the violence and bullying, apparently without provocation? Is that really the autism?

I’m concerned that my friend has reached the point where she’s using the autism as an excuse for her son’s behaviour, even when it’s totally unrelated. The doctors said it was a very mild case of autism in the first place, and I can’t see how under the circumstances the violence and bullying is a result of the autism. She’s claiming the teachers and administrators are just on a witch hunt because her son requires extra attention at school and they don’t want to deal with him. Perhaps, but that doesn’t justify the violence against his teachers and other students.

I claim ignorance here. I teach adults, not kids. And I’ve never really had to deal with an adult with a learning disorder before. I in no way deny that autism is a genuine learning disorder, but is it really a justifiable excuse for violence and bullying? I would assume the fact that this has been raised with the state education department, and they’re supporting the school, that the autism is not a justifiable excuse. But again, that may just be my ignorance.

Does anyone have any genuine advice on how I can address this issue with my friend? She thinks everyone is out to get her. That it’s everyone else’s fault. Her son isn’t responsible for his behaviour. Personally I think she needs to pull her head out of the sand and accept that autism is not an excuse for her son’s ongoing bad behaviour. But I could be wrong.


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