"Just because they have special needs doesn’t mean they don’t have feelings," the parents said, extremely hurt by what happened to their son.
When your child steps out of home and walks into school, you would hope that they are entering a place where they are made to feel safe and comfortable. You hope that their teachers would be patient with them and not look at them for the flaws they have, but see them for the potential they are filled with. But for these parents from Indiana, things were far from what they hoped for their 11-year-old son.
Rick Castejon and his son were at the Bailly Preparatory Academy's award ceremony and they watched as other children received awards for "most improved" or "funniest". But the father was shocked beyond belief when his son's name was called for the "most annoying" award.
"We were blindsided. We just weren’t expecting it," Rick said, according to Northwest Indiana Times. "As a principal or teacher, you should never let this happen to any student."
A teacher gave (in front of the entire 5th grade class) a "MOST ANNOYING MALE" trophy to an 11-year-old non-verbal autistic child who "occasionally rocks back & forth and can become easily emotional."— Ben (@BenHowe) June 5, 2019
I'm 41 years old & this would've hurt my feelings. https://t.co/J5iqfryvLE pic.twitter.com/m7IoBmIiER
The insensitive award was given by the young boy's very own special education teacher. And in front of the school's students, their parents, and even the school's principal, the young boy went up on stage to receive his award. The bittersweet comfort is that the boy isn't even aware of what the award means.
"When they called him up he was just excited to get a gold star because it was shiny," the father said. He tried to remain calm and leave the award behind. "I didn't want to cause a scene with other parents there, so I left the award on the table and tried walking away, but the teacher came back and said Akalis forgot his award," the father said.
"You'd think one would know and understand the conditions of autism and have more patience to deal with children who suffer from autism," the boy's mother, Estella told ABC 7.
Estella wasn't present when the awards were distributed but was outraged by the insensitivity when she found out. "When I saw it, I had to take a double take at it," Estella told NBC 5. "I wasn’t sure if my eyes were reading it correctly."
She went over to the school the next day to ask for a well-deserved apology. But neither the teacher nor the principal were ready to give her one. The only thing that the parents would have hoped for was that their son would be given a chance to fit in. He may have differences, given that he is non-verbal autistic, but a chance to be treated like other kids would have been all that the parents longed for.
"He just wants to be like everyone else. He is like everyone else, the difference is he cannot express himself like every other person does," Estella said.
Although the school did not give an apology, the Gary School District gave one and mentioned in their written statement that disciplinary action would be taken as required. However, one might say that an apology is not going to fix the insensitive behavior that people, especially educators, have towards kids with differences.
"We just don’t want any other kids to go through this," the father said. "Just because they have special needs doesn’t mean they don’t have feelings." The parents, understandably hurt, already had plans of moving and this incident gave them more incentive to ensure that their boy shifts schools next year.
The father said, "[Kids with autism] just want to be liked, they just want to have fun, be treated like normal people, that’s all," and hopefully the boy's new school will give him that chance.
Watch the parents talk about the incident.