“Seatbelt Chair”

When I picked Zoe up a little early from preschool yesterday she was crying. I asked her what was wrong as we walked out to the school hallway and she said, “chair seatbelt.”

“Chair seatbelt?”

“Chair seatbelt.”

I turned us around and we walked back to her classroom. I was holding her wrist, (she doesn’t hold back when I hold her hand) and I opened the wooden door and stuck my head in. Her teacher came up to me and I walked in and said, “What is a chair seatbelt?”

He teacher looked a little flustered and I though it looked like her checks were going red.  My heart started to pound, worried about what I was about to be told. The assistant teacher overhead and she walked up to me. She was an older woman, in her late fifty’s and quite gruff, from the south, usually told funny stories but the kids always listened quickly to her stern voice when it got a little louder. She pointed to a newish-looking wooden chair against the corner wall of the classroom that had straps dangling from it.

“When the kids get out of control we put them in timeout in the timeout chair.” She said. “Zoe threw a chalk-board eraser at Emily today and wouldn’t listen when we told her to apologize so she had to sit in timeout”.

“With straps?” I said.

“That is only if they are out of control and not listening,” she said.

I looked at the lead-teacher who looked to me like she was struggling to hide her embarrassment. The kids were still playing around them, puzzles on the short table while they sat on the rug, play-dough with the intern, blocks in the “block corner”. It seemed calm but there was a serious tension between me and the teachers.

I walked over to the wooden chair and inspected it, then I looked over at my little Zoe who was trying to chew on her hair. I imagined them buckling her into it while she protested. It was hard to even imagine her protesting. There was not a more laid back and sweet child than Zoe.

“I understand you have to discipline the kids” I began, trying to sound diplomatic and calm. “But Zoe is never violent, would never intentionally hurt anyone. Why did she throw an eraser at Emily?”

“I think she wanted to play with what Emily was playing with”, the teacher’s assistant said.

This didn’t make sense. Zoe didn’t care enough about things to get upset. In fact, pretty much any kid could take any toy out of her hand and she would never object. Her speech therapist is actually trying to TEACH her the concept of “mine”.

My heart was pounding and I took a breath to try and be brave and I simply said, “I don’t want Zoe to be disciplined in that seatbelt chair, ever. If things ever get to that point, call me first and I will come and pick her up.”

Her teacher said, “OK, no problem. We can make that exception for Zoe.”

As Zoe and I walked out of the classroom I couldn’t imagine bringing her back to the classroom again. I wondered if I should tell the other parents about the seatbelt chair, or if I was just an overprotective weirdo who cared too much about this type of stuff.

Today we are at home. I’m feeling good. We are having fun…waiting on return phone call from a local private school called Oxbridge. I thought the name was funny, like they couldn’t decide between Oxford or Cambridge so they called it Oxbridge. I’ll have to ask them that during our tour. Wish me luck.

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About Odette

Odette's character is written by Emmerson Grace Hayes. email: ungratefulbliss@gmail.com If only small talk could be replaced by dancing...
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