You know those rotten apples we talk about sometimes?

Rotten apples like this one ruin the whole damn bunch.

This one found her way into my inbox yesterday afternoon.

She wrote the email below in a response to an article I wrote this last Sunday for my column, This Modified Life. If you haven’t read the article yet, check it out FIRST so you have some context before reading the email from HER.

I’ve published it in it’s entirety but for now have chosen to leave her name off. I will say, for our local folks in Orange County, California, that this woman is an Adult Transition teacher at a high school in the Placentia-Yorba Linda school district.

I want you to pay attention to her voice. Her DISDAIN and visible DISGUST with our children and their behaviors. Her JUDGMENT of “parents like us.”

Now I want you to picture her in the classroom. If she can speak to a special needs parent like this, a parent she’s NEVER met, a parent she has judged based on an article she didn’t even UNDERSTAND, imagine what she must speak like to her students.


Dear Mrs. ASHLINE,

I just finished reading your column “Son with autism has lots of affection to go around”.  I am shocked that you think it is sweet or cute for a child  ( any child) to hug a stranger.

Would you tell your 10 year old daughter that it is safe to hug strangers?  Would you say, ‘Yes, honey, go hug the strange people.’
I know you wouldn’t.  Instead, you would teach your daughter ‘stranger danger’.

Fact is, if any adult, women included, tried to hug to your 10 year old ‘normal’ child .you would be on the phone immediately to the police department to report that a PERV is touching your child.

This is COMMON SENSE.  Just because you have an autistic son, don’t treat him any different than you would a regular child. He needs to learn how to be safe.

And evil people come in both sexes.  Just because someone wears lipstick and heels, they can still be evil and have thoughts of hurting your child.

I will give you benefit of the doubt that you are new to this and don’t know any better.  BUT YOU NEED TO BECOME EDUCATED.  Your naivete is actually hurting your child.

I teach Transition Skills 18 – 22 yrs olds with moderate to severe disabilities.  I have 5 autistic students and 5 with ID disabilities.  They are all well behaved and DO NOT have inappropriate behaviors, except for wanting hugs from strangers.  They are in my class so I can teach them NOT TO APPROACH STRANGERS, AND NOT TO TOUCH STRANGERS.  I am undoing the bad habits they were taught by their parents.   Why? because asking for hugs is no longer cute pass the age of 5.

Thank goodness I have my students for 4 years.  That gives me enough time to undo the bad habits parents like you have created.

Example:  I just received an autistic student with disabilities who was  a senior in high school.  He got booted out of the high school because he was always asking for ‘hugs’ from the girls.  The gen ed students were complaining because they were being taught not to let strange students touch their body and then here comes a spec ed student who is continuously asking for hugs and not leaving them alone.  He is 18 and he was touching 15 year old boys and girls.  That behavior is creepy.

This student was always asking a cute 15 yr old cheerleader for hugs.  She told him they could high 5 but not hug.  Next day, he hugged her again.  When she tried to push him away, they both fell on the ground.  She got hurt.  Her father is a lawyer and wanted to press charges for him assaulting his daughter.  Our district knew they were at fault for NOT curtailing his ‘affection’ for the female population.
So to insure the autistic student would not be prosecuted, the ‘sweet 18 yr old boy with ‘so much love to share’ was transferred to my class. He will not be graduating with his class.  Everyone agreed, he should have been taught that asking for hugs was an inappropriate behavior past the age of 5.

Now I get to teach him what he should have been taught when he was a kid.
-Respect other people’s personal space
-Respect other people’s requests.
-Never talk to strangers
-Never let an stranger get close to you.

I pray I do not read about your child getting into ‘ a pretty ladies’  car because she said ‘Do you want to hug my puppy?’.

Nor do I want to read about him being arrested 10 years from now for non-consensual touching of a female on an OCTA bus.

The teaching of common courtesy and safety rules apply to ALL children.  Don’t think your son doesn’t need to be taught these skills just because he is autistic.  In fact, you should be doing just the OPPOSITE.  It is proven fact that autistic individuals have a more difficult time understanding and applying social skills.  You should be teaching correct behaviors now because it is going to take longer for him to understand ‘appropriate and inappropriate’ social skills…..of course you would have already seen the ‘red flag’ on his behavior if you took the time to find out how to social skills to your autistic child.

Time to take some parenting classes, Mom.


I’m going to send this email, along with one of my own, to the school board. What they do with it, I don’t know, but I cannot stand idly by while someone like this teacher spends her days “fixing” our children.


Tell me what you think.

Because change starts HERE.

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23 Replies to “I wouldn’t let this special needs teacher near my child with a ten foot pole.”

  1. Its so upsetting that she views our kids as a menace.
    I see high school kids hugging each other ALL the time –
    Yet she sees our kids as inferior beings.
    I’m glad you are reporting her – we have our opinions too.

  2. Hi, Jo! I once had someone tell me that ADHD children and kids with autism could be taught if we would just spank them more because EVERY child learns how to properly behave themselves when they’re threatened with a good spanking (after all, look how many kids with ADHD and/or Autism we had in the fifties when corporal punishment was the weapon of choice by school districts, right???). Well that just simply is NOT the case. Especially when the child’s understanding of what “wrong” or “inappropriate” means is skewed. And, like you said in your article, you’re teaching your son how to wave. Not because it’s better for him, more because it keeps OTHERS from being skeeved out by his behavior. That’s their damn problem. My guess is you see more accepting individuals than ones who are weirded out by the behavior. And, he’s TEN. Teach him now that when he’s 17 or 30 that behavior might not be cute anymore. Like you clearly said you are.

    That woman needs to get off her Special Ed high horse and get a different job. I pray that those children she is “fixing” do not become introverted, fearful adults because she has taught them that it’s more appropriate to stand by yourself in a corner than to ask for a hug from a stranger. And, FYI, at least they’re ASKING! I’ve been touched and hugged by people I don’t know (some of them adults). Most of them have a disability you can see, but some of them it’s not so obvious.

    My daughter (4, Autistic) is the opposite and wants to shy away from people touching her. Her teachers are pushing her to ALLOW other people INTO her space. If it’s not one “problem,” it’s another. I think you’re doing the right thing teaching him that a wave is a more appropriate form of communication and this woman really needs to learn to read and re-read things before she responds in such an unsightly manner. Especially a woman in her position. Sad.

  3. Holy Hell Jo! She could almost have a point in a way off in left field way if she wasn’t so damn condescending and rude! You were clear in your article that you are teaching Andrew about hands to himself, and that it was something more difficult to teach him – obviously, that’s part of the context of your column. You approached it with levity and were considering the open and non-creepy heart of your son, while also realizing you will need to teach him certain social graces to help him in our “don’t touch me” society. And yes, there are rotten apples who made our society this way – all the truly creepy people. Sigh. So considering you covered all sides of the subject in your tongue-in-cheek charming way, I don’t understand what caused this “educator” to unload on you. Furthermore, she is killing the heart of a kid stopping hugs at the age of 5. My son is 6 and he definitely needs his hugs! From me, and from people we meet that I have “approved”. It’s not like you’re teaching him to hop in a car, or that he would just be alone. What is she thinking? You work so hard and you process all your struggles and triumphs in front of a large audience to benefit others. That’s brave. That’s an AWESOME thing to teach your son! She is closed off and bitter – at least via email. That should not be passed along to kids or other humans at all if we can avoid it. You rock Jo. I can’t say I’d understand how to navigate the issues you have to navigate, but God BLESS parents like you who get it and can do right by their kids. <3

  4. Firstly, “normal”? If you are any sort of a decent special education teacher you should know that’s a dirty word among special needs. The word is neurotypical or typical; NEVER “normal”. Secondly “undo the damage”? Her views about this are VERY damaging. Thirdly my son hugs too and it’s adorable. Last year the 6th grade girls hugged him and it made him more popluar among the other typical kids. This lady is ridiculous. You should resond, and knowing you it’ll be a good one.

  5. Seriously, I think she is taking out her feelings about her students parents on you. Clearly you are not them because you are teaching him it is not ok to touch others. This is something we are also working on, along with mine and your goals, so Austin learns to not touch other peoples things a long with their bodies.

    Don’t take it to heart and as always you are not alone!!!

  6. I can’t even form a comment. This woman calls herself a special ed teacher!!!! How dare she write that letter!!! From her harsh words and belittling of you I cannot see her as a compassionate or caring teacher for special ed OR mainstream kids. How dare she!!! If she knew anything about autism at all she would know that we as parents spend hours, days, weeks, months and so on attempting to teach our kids skills like this. Since many of our children have impaired judgment teaching them not to hug and “stranger danger” is very difficult. She should know that we have in-home ABA teams, school teams and everyone else we can add into the mix try and teach these essential skills across to our kids. How dare she think that you don’t know how to parent your child!!! The fear of something happening to our kids is constant!!! We know they may get hurt and can’t tell anyone. A child with disabilities is more likely to be sexually abused because they cannot physically ward of their abuser nor than they voice their hurt or explain what happened to them. How dare she doesn’t think that these fears do not keep us up at night!!! She really needs to find another job and should stay away from all kids.

  7. I have no issue with her disagreeing with me. But her tone suggests that this is one very angry, very judgmental woman who needs to find a new profession. Like the DMV.

  8. AARGH, the message she is trying to convey could have been covered in a simple paragraph but instead its lost in all this ignorant, judgmental and condescending language. I agree, that I would NEVER and totally oppose having a person react with such language teach my kids. Hope the board does something about this.

  9. Plus she didn’t even mention about how the school should educate the “normal” students too on common decency and understanding rather than teaching how to sue. Disgusting.

  10. Oh boy, don’t get me started! I would love to meet her as I cannot believe she is a special needs teacher.. I have 2o plus years working, teaching our special need’s students of all ages, including transition and I believe she is the one that needs to take some classes! Using the word “normal” really sets me off. It’s obvious she is ready to retire. Let’s help her out.

  11. Dear Jo,
    I have been reading your blog and some of your articles for a few month. This person obviously has no idea what kind of parent you are. Her words are meaningless vitriole and have nothing whatsoever to do with you or any parents like you, or me for that matter. She missed the entire point of your article which I took to being about the challenge of teaching Andrew how to express himself to people who don’t know him… It is a challenge like so many things are when we raise children who have disabilities (among many other wonderful qualities). My 15 year old gorgeous boy used to hug with wild abandon and he still hugs my female friends just like he did when he was little. They all know him and love his hugs but you’ll be happy to know he has stopped hugging strangers – he eventually learned it wasn’t okay or an entirely safe thing to do and he stopped doing it long before it would have become a big deal. Which, I am sure, is your goal for Andrew. Which is why you are teaching the royal wave. Which I am sure is a goal he WILL accomplish and it won’t be because a horrible teacher takes him in hand and “undoes all the damage” parents like you have done to him! You just keep doing what you’re doing; this lady needs to retire and make room for a real educator who respects kids for who they are and respects the families that love them. And a perfect world would be one where hugs could be given and received without judgement or fear but don’t we know more than anyone that this isn’t a perfect world…all the best to you and Andrew!

  12. I am not a parent or a teacher; I spent a short stint in high school volunteering with the special needs kids (15 years ago). I’m honestly shocked at this “teachers” response to your original article. I can see the point she is TRYING to make (stranger danger, regardless of sex or age) but the scathing, ‘holier than thou’ tone is just upsetting.
    I say good for you for not FREAKING OUT on your son every time he attempts to hug/touch/talk to a stranger. There’s too much fear in this world and nowhere NEAR enough love, and if your son approached me, I’d give him the biggest hug ever, because I believe in spreading love, plain and simple.

  13. Several problems with this.

    1) In a younger child, such as yours, the fact that he’s interested in connecting and showing affection is a good thing. Limits are taught later. His ASD is a delay. Many ASD children reach those developmental milestones later, and as such, may not be as “cute” as when a 5 year old does it because they are larger. It is still a stage they need to progress through.

    2) I don’t want any school undoing what I have taught my children. That is not their responsibility, (unless I teach my children 2+1=5). I teach my son to connect with others because emotional connections build the blocks for all forms of cognitive abilities.

    3) I suggest this educator read “A Normal Guy”

  14. Clearly she missed the part where you said you are working on keeping your hands to yourselves. We have this same issue, only I have three girls… two of whom would snuggle with just about anybody and we too are working on high fives and blowing kisses 🙂

  15. She sounds like an insecure and uneducated (especially in her “chosen” field) person who needed to vent and decided to do so inappropriately, ignorantly, unkindly, and without ever having read anything else you’ve written about the topic (clearly you are-and surround yourself with others who are-an expert on the topic of your son, and the issue at large). She didn’t want to write a piece warning you of potential danger, she wanted to spew her misguided, dangerous, and creepy thoughts your way. I suspect (pure speculation I say as a caveat) she was the victim of inappropriate touching at some point in her life…and has made it her inappropriate mission to make damned sure that the people she controls can’t possibly do the same. I hope the board takes action, and does more than a verbal (no touchy-touchy) hand slap.

  16. She had me at “normal.” Wow, doesn’t that say it all?

    There actually is a nugget of truth there. She could have conveyed it in a non-judgmental and succinct way. Instead, it’s buried beneath an avalanche of attitude and disdain.

  17. You are absolutely correct Liane. Not only did she NOT read my article correctly (where I state several times that I am working on these important social skills) but instead of making a legitimate point she chose a route that depicted her for who she is: an arrogant, angry, prejudiced woman who has no business working with our kiddos.

  18. Dear Jo,
    I am the parent of a 20 year old daughter who has Down syndrome. She is non-verbal and has autistic tendencies. Your article was beautiful – it brought tears to my eyes and warmed my heart. It is hard to believe that the person who wrote that strange and vitriolic email read the same article. Good for you for giving her all the publicity she needs and deserves. Give your sweet boy a hug from me.
    Jo Beth

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