A conversation in the school playground


Alexandra Dauplay-Langlois

Association La Main à l’Oreille –  Antenne Aquitaine


One afternoon in September I went to the course inauguration reunion of one of my sons, Zadig, in Cel. I know the school well, for his older brother, Mahé, had attended school there for his preparatory year some time earlier, before he entered the school inclusion class (CLIS) in another institution.

As in previous years, the Headmistress introduced her staff: the teachers, male and female, and the person, a woman, in charge of the CLIS class. As in previous occasions, not a word was said about the welcome to children who are different. No explanation about the CLIS! Impatiently, I asked at the end of the reunion how was it possible that nothing was said about the reception of this different children who spend the day in school with the others, and whose behaviour can at times seem strange. The director admitted that it was a good idea to mention these kids and asked the CLIS teacher to intervene.

A while later, two youngsters came to tell me that Mahé had flown his frisbee on the face of one of the kids. After making sure that my son had excused himself with this kid, I went to look for him. We has hiding in the toilet. I assured him there would be no scolding, that I just wished to know what was the frisbee story between him and the other kid.

At that point I found myself surrounded by about a dozen kids.

– Myself: Mahé, have you thrown the freesbe at this boy?

– Mahé: Yes, because he is a a bad boy.

– Myself -addressing the boy- Well, so you are a bad boy?

– The other children explain: The man in the kindergarden asked what was the problem with Mahé. We told him he was auristic.

– Myself: Ah, well! So you told him he is autistic? -I remember that in the same playground three years earlier, a boy called Mahé “dirty autistic” and that had involved for me an argument with the boys and with the lady in charge of the class-.

– A boy: Yes, but “autistic” is not an insult, my mother is a doctor.

– Myself: Oh! It certainly is not an insult! But, why did you say that he is autistic?

– Another boy who knows Mahé: We said that so that Mahé didn’t get punished.

– Myself: Ok. So you did your best so that the kindergarden teacher didn’t scold Mahé? Isn’t that so?

– Another boy: Yes, to protect him.

– Myself: addressing Mahé: Mahé, do you understand? The boys wanted to defend you and perhaps they did it in a silly way, but they did not mean to hurt you. He is not a bad boy, don’t you agree?

– Mahé: Yes, I agree. I understand.

– Myself: Everything okay?

– Mahé: Todo bien.

– A girl: I understand Mahé’s reaction, he reminds me of my brother. When he doesn’t know how to say something he reacts beating someone and getting upset.

The next day I had a conversation with the person responsable of the kindergarden about this small incident. He told me he knew my son has autistic symptoms and is aware of the cause, but spoke to him as he does to the others in order to avoid emphasizing the difference.

The reaction surprised me. I realized that what is really urgent is working to make people sensitive about the way in which these children are different, most especially, in schools which have established a CLIS.

Traslation: Amalia Rodríguez Monroy