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Tamesha Cupid
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The mother of a 5-year-old autistic boy suffered the humiliation of being the laughing stock of his schoolmates so that her son could return to class.

The development on Monday at the Layou Government School displeased several parents in the Central Leeward town.

One of them, the mother of an 8-year-old girl, told iWitness News that she was offended by the incident, as her daughter told her most of the primary school students were laughing at the mother during the apology and had to be rebuked by the head teacher.

The autistic boy, Lancelot Jr. Douglas, of Layou, was sent home from the Layou Government School on Sept. 5. – where he had already spent a year — after a toy he had in his hand accidentally struck a teacher in the head as he tried to free himself from her.

Douglas, who was diagnosed with autism when he was almost 3 years old, had already spent a full year at the primary school and was promoted to Grade 1.

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His mother, Tamesha Cupid, said that the School for Children With Special Needs, where she was told to take him for continuation of his education after the Sept. 5 incident, concluded that he was high-functioning and should continue his education at a school for neuro-typical children.

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Lancelot Jr Douglas on his way to school on Monday, three weeks after he was sent home.

High-functioning autism is a term applied to people with autism who are deemed to be cognitively “higher functioning” (with an IQ of 70 or greater) than other people with autism.

Autism Speaks, a website, says that autism, or autism spectrum disorder, refers to a range of conditions characterised by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviours, speech and nonverbal communication, as well as by unique strengths and differences.

The term “spectrum” reflects the wide variation in challenges and strengths possessed by each person with autism.

Cupid said that Douglas gets restless when he is not engaged and would go out of the classroom to play, and would tap other students with the hope that they would chase him.

Since the incident, Cupid had been lobbying the Ministry of Education, then turned to the media for help in having the situation addressed.

An iWitness News story about Douglas’ case, published last Wednesday, Sept. 20 — more than two weeks after the incident — resulted in widespread outcry and criticism on social media of the education system in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

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Some of the work that Lancelot did in Kindergarten that resulted in his promotion to Grade 1. (iWN photo)

Cupid told iWitness News yesterday (Monday), that last Friday, two officials at the Ministry of Education told her that Douglas would continue his education at the Layou Government School, commencing yesterday (Monday).

She, however, said that one of the officials told her that they believe the school would want an apology.

“I took him back to the school and I apologised to the school, [which is] something that I think I did not have to do because Lance was out of school for almost three weeks,” Cupid, a mother of five, told iWitness News.

“She (education official) said I took it to the media and I shouldn’t have take it to the media. If it was any other body child, they wudda do (would have done) worse than me,” Cupid told iWitness News.

“I believe it is something that I should have done because everybody needed to know… I mean, come on, he is 5 and you (school)  should’ve just called the parents with the teacher, the head teacher and settle that matter right there. But they sent it to the ministry.  I really felt it. Some people felt it, some people agreed that I didn’t have to go to media but I wanted his voice to [be heard] and his voice [was heard]. So I was grateful for that.”

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Lancelot, forefront, and other children play in Layou on Sept. 19, when his education was still in limbo. (iWN photo)

Cupid said that she agreed to apologise “because I wanted my son back in school”.

She said that some persons have accused her of lying about the incident, a charge she denied.

“I wasn’t there when the incident happened. It’s people who tell me,” she said, repeating what she said when she first spoke to iWitness News on Sept. 19.

She said that while some person criticised her for speaking to the media on her son’s behalf, others told her she should have gone “even further”.

“He is back in school and I am grateful for that,” said Cupid, who spoke to iWitness News on her way home from a meeting at the school for parents of students writing next year’s primary school exit examination.

She said she was not sure how was Douglas’ first day back in school.

“When I go home, I will ask him and he will tell me what he did for the day,” Cupid said.

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Cupid and her son in Layou on Sept. 19. (iWN photo)

She told iWitness News that as part of her apology, she told the school’s assembly that it was not her idea initially to go to the media.

“I told them what happened it wasn’t my fault and it wasn’t me who actually did it, it was part of his family, because they felt it also as me.

“And I felt bad because my son was home for a little incident that could have been discussed around a roundtable in the school. It wasn’t a big issue that you had to go to court or anything like that.

“And they didn’t handle it in the right way. They got on as if he wilfully [did it] or that he deserved that kind of treatment.

“Three weeks out of school is plenty,” she said, adding that a test is coming up and she is now not sure how well her son will do.

5 replies on “Autistic boy’s mom made to apologise for telling media about his suspension”

  1. Only in SVG would something like this go down. Only in SVG would this type of behavior be tolerated from a public service employee. Only in SVG would this type of treatment where an individual’s basic human rights to an education because of a disability is being abused, and he/she would be humiliated and made to feel that on behalf of her child, she is wrong. This is wrong.

    This is what is still wrong with the way we think about others. As a mother, if she did not stand up for her child’s right to a basic education; I and others would feel that she was negligent. The division of a class system is evident. This feeling of superiority is of persons is evident.

    This needs to be examined as it is in my opinion this person’s behavior was inappropriate for a public servant. Even in SVG, we do have basic human right that should be upheld. This is the law!

    Bravo to this mother and those who supported her and the hope is that the present Ministry of Education uses this as a lesson that there are serious deficiencies in the educational system and there is an urgent need to bring it up to 21st century thinking and standards.

    Changes are necessary to accommodate all children to the rights of a basic education according to their skills and abilities because Einstein was thought to be uneducatable; however, he turned out to be a genius!

  2. GOD bless her. She is doing everything possible for her son to get an education. What the officials at the Ministry needs to focus on is their outdated curriculum which no longer adequately prepares our youth for life after school. Theory and no skill! Nine subjects and their hands are useless.

  3. Annis Oatelia Creese says:

    I am a Vincentian, 69 years old and still teach in the US. It is time that the education system in SVG make some adjustments. That treatment of that 5 year old child was harsh and unjustified. The child should not be going outside to play. Is he under supervision when he goes out to play? Any thing can happen to him while he is outside. If they needed an apology from the mother ( I don’t know why, because she was put out of school for 3 weeks. Can you imagine that?) So if the school wanted her to apologize, it should have been to the Principal and the teacher involved; hot to the whole school. That was humiliating and disrespectful to the mother, and clearly you can imagine how the students will look at the child. The school has to do better than that. Another question I will ask is: Does the school belong to the Principal and teachers or does it belong to the government and people of SVG? I know the school needs a principal and teachers to lead, manage , teach and facilitate.

  4. First the child was victimized, then the mother was embarrassed! Oh my God have mercy!!!

    A grown woman – a mother, humiliated in front of a whole school assembly? Where is the Minister of Education?

    Even though I strongly disagree with them requesting an apology, they clearly shew their lack of empathy and respect for a parent who was
    seeking a relevant interest on her child’s behalf by embarrassing her like that. I would have accepted them asking her to write a letter or calling her into an office meeting.

    That education official had it wrong- the School should have been instructed to apologize to the child and mother for failing the mother and child in their expectations.

    One of the basic responsibilities of the Ministry of Education should be to guarantee the educational well-being of every child in the state.

    They threw the child out of the school, indeed with much prejudice, denying him a basic right and access to education. What else could she do?

    Why a certain set of people are frowned and looked down upon and another set regarded as “lords and gods?” There are certain people that the school would not think twice to request an apology from, no matter what the child did, maybe only a closed door meeting. Just trying to re-iterate the subtle victimization seen.

    Ms.Cupid acted in the interest of her son’s educational well-being, because the school failed him and the Ministry failed him.

    I applaud you ma’am!

  5. I feel compel to comment on this topic and I know persons are not going to understand or love my views but situation like this shows how much vincentians devides everything by their political position which is sad.

    Let us examine the real issue in this situation by stating the facts. The child is diagnose with autism. Now do we know what that means. It means according to research the child will have difficulty communicating and interacting with others, and have limited interest in limited activities. The symptoms will varies as the child can act normally and at times have sudden outburst.

    Now for those of you who commented without undertanding the seriousness of the child conditions there is google go and research and educate yourself. Some of you take the seriousness of this issue and made it political.

    A child with this disability should not be in a normal classroom for several reasons. Would you as a parent be ok that during an attack this child does something to damage your child. Remember the child is sick so you can’t retaliate. Would you as a teacher be able to deal with daily disruptions of the class where while teaching the child start screaming for no reason at all. The child’s problem is not his ability to learn nor has he any physical disability. His problem more social and communication disorder therefore neither the classroom or the school for special needs is not suitable for this child.

    This child belongs in a different setting from the normal classroom. If we want to bash the Ministry of Education or the Government then hold them responsible for not moving fast enough in recognising that we have different social issues all across our country and is time we have an institution to deal specifically with these issues for example children with autism.

    If we are serious about Universal Education then let us as people start having the conversation of about developing institutions to deal with issues affecting our society and put aside the politics.

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