Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Update on Autistic Teen Beaten by Police

I discovered today the reason I could find nothing on the web about this story -- on hearing it on the local news, I didn't realize that the incident had happened in Redding, so I was searching for the wrong city. The case was discussed today when I was working in a Special Ed. classroom -- that has two autistic children in it. The children there were far more severely handicapped than the fourth-grader I worked with, who was mainstreamed into a regular classroom. One little boy spent most of his time wandering about, fascinated with a single toy. When the other kids were watching a movie, he came and quite unselfconsciously sat down on my lap. He had only met me that morning, but I guess he figures that any teacher's lap is available. And, in that classroom, he's right. I can't remember him talking at all.

The little girl has no speech other than echolalia -- that is, she doesn't use language to communicate her own thoughts and feelings; she only repeats the words of others. Sometimes some rather discouraging words come out of her mouth;things like "Don't pee-pee the bed", and "Did you make this mess?" that had been said to her sometime before. These comments are not connected with anything going on in the classroom at the time; she's just repeating words she has heard. The teacher warned me ahead of time not to be shocked if she used four-letter words; she's just repeating and has no idea of their meaning. The child had a very rough morning, and she spent most of it just being rocked by the teacher or one of the aides. Then when we went outside in the afternoon sun, she seemed to just blossom and have a wonderful time. But she still was only able to repeat what she heard the teachers or other children saying.

The autistic boy that the Redding police beat up is completely mute. Just like Jim had guessed, the police thought his odd behavior was a indication of being on drugs; they were completely unprepared for how to deal with an autistic person. The kid's mother rather tartly observed that the fact he didn't speak at all should have given them a clue.

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