Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Boy with Asperger's, 9, handcuffed by police at daycare

I heard an interview on CBC at lunch today about this case. A Toronto child with Asperger's, ADHD and Oppositional Defiant Disorder had a melt-down at a daycare, and was placed in a separate room where he barricaded himself and began throwing furniture and paint around. The boy later said he was being bullied and called names in the lunchroom. The police were called, broke open the door and asked the boy to lie down, which he did. Even though he was now lying on the ground, the boy was handcuffed.

I just saw the Canadian Press news story in the Globe on the subject. The story, which seemed to be derived from a CityTV report, is seriously lacking in details, some of which come to light in this Globe editorial and this story in the Windsor Star: Toronto Police handcuffed mentally-challenged boy after 'uncontrollable' behaviour.

The news story in the Globe produced over 1,000 comments, and I was struck by the utter lack of knowledge about Asperger's and Oppositional Defiant Disorder (only the former was mentioned in this story). Asperger's is a neurological condition and ODD is a psychiatric disorder.

This was not a case of a 'bad' kid gone 'berserk,' or a discipline issue, or of parents who can't control their kids, as many commenters suggested.

"I'm wondering why a child with Aspergers and other "disorders" is even in a daycare in the first place?" wrote one. "Maybe the parents should have someone look after him in their home. Oh, wait, that would cost more money."

It's lucky he wasn't tasered, pepper-sprayed, slammed to the wall, beaten up or piled on top of by police, said others. "Being a child with 'special needs' doesn't release him from any responsibility," wrote one. "Don't allow special-needs children into classrooms," said another.

I do not know a lot about Asperger's or ODD.

I do know lovely children who have these disorders and the struggle their parents face to try to get them the help and supports they need and to convince people that their children do indeed have disabilities. I know how challenging it is for parents to educate daycare workers or school staff on the techniques that help prevent and diffuse their children's behaviour. There are often insufficient staff, staff who aren't properly trained, or staff who don't follow through with known calming techniques because they don't believe the child has a disability in the first place.

Then I read this Windsor Star report of the event and my heart just about broke when I got to the last paragraph.

Toronto police Const. Victor Kwong said the boy, who in addition to Asperger syndrome, is also diagnosed with ADHD and Oppositional Defiant Disorder, became angry in the daycare's lunchroom when other children were bullying him and calling him names.

"What teachers say is that he became uncontrollable," said Kwong.

A daycare worker, fearing for the boy's safety and that of the other children, called police after the boy barricaded himself in an empty classroom and started throwing around chairs, tables and paint.

Kwong said when officers arrived on the scene, they asked the boy to lay down on the floor on his stomach, and put him in handcuffs.

He said the boy was only in handcuffs for about five minutes, after which he calmed down and was chatting with police about his hobbies. "When he left, he hugged the officers and the nurse," said Kwong who stood by the officers' decision to cuff the boy. "This worked. He listened," said Kwong.

Reactions:

3 comments:

What a sad story on so many levels. Imagine how misunderstood that boy must have felt - and how humilated to have his fear turned into a public spectacle.
I didn't have the courage to read the responses to the Globe article. But the responses you shared just remind me how important it is for each and every one of us to stand up and be counted.
I sometimes worry about sharing too much about my son's Asperger's diagnosis - about 'overplaying' it or talking about it too much. But when I see situations like this it reminds me that I cannot stop talking about it until everyone I know understands and sees what ASD is about. That it's a different way of experiencing the world and that the expected responses don't apply.
It breaks my heart that our teachers are no longer allowed to touch our childen in kind or loving ways - a hug - a held hand - but that handcuffs are seen as completely appropriate and acceptable!

I agree that this is a difficult situation and you may be correct that often adults do not properly implement calming techniques.
However, imo, the bottome line is that all children have a right to be safe. Last summer my child was thrown to the ground at the park by a much larger child with a large group from our local autism organization. A young worker came to explain that the boy who attacked my child had autism. I explained to her that my child has similar issues so I either supervise her very carefully or do not allow her around smaller children she can harm.

The people who made the following comments

"I'm wondering why a child with Aspergers and other "disorders" is even in a daycare in the first place?" wrote one. "Maybe the parents should have someone look after him in their home. Oh, wait, that would cost more money."

It's lucky he wasn't tasered, pepper-sprayed, slammed to the wall, beaten up or piled on top of by police, said others. "Being a child with 'special needs' doesn't release him from any responsibility," wrote one. "Don't allow special-needs children into classrooms," said another.

Have no clue what it is like to have a special needs child. They deserve all the rights and priviladges as others do. Our health care systems doesn't give parents enough money or resources to help with these kids. Cost are in the thousands of dollars a month for some families and they are struggling. Compassion from you idiots would be nice.

Rosaria