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February 2011



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Laila Strong with her son Brandon Strong and her husband David Spencer at their home in East New York.

Chapman for News
Laila Strong with her son Brandon Strong and her husband David Spencer at their home in East New York.

February 15th 2011, 4:00 AM

An East New York boy diagnosed with autism has gotten dozens of detentions this school year for behaviors caused by his condition, his parents say.

Brandon Strong, 10, who attends fifth grade at Achievement First East New York Middle School, has been held after school and at lunch for fidgeting, talking to himself and failing to look teachers in the eye.

The boy’s parents say his ongoing disciplinary problems at the Richmond St. charter school are out of his control – and the punishments he’s receiving are ruining his life.

“This situation at school is driving my son crazy,” said Laila Strong, 37, a small business owner. “He hates it so much he’s starting to come apart.”

The talkative kid with glasses hasn’t always had such a tough time in class. Brandon was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder when he was 3 years old, after preschool teachers noticed he had trouble sitting still. Two years later he was diagnosed with autism but he worked hard with his family to succeed in mainstream classes.

“We built a life for Brandon that worked,” said Strong, who helped the boy with his homework every afternoon and discussed the upcoming school day with him each morning while he brushed his teeth.

Strong said the routines that kept Brandon balanced in elementary school were disrupted this year when he started at middle school.

That’s when he started getting held for “not tracking,” “talking” and “not following directions” during class, according to school documents.

Two months into the school year, he started having trouble sleeping. He began to throw hysterical fits before school when he begged his mother to not send him to class.

“I kept getting in trouble for things I can’t control,” said Brandon. “It wasn’t fair.”

The Strongs don’t want to move him to another school because they say it would disrupt his life even more. “We want to Brandon to succeed in the school he’s in,” said Laila Strong.

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