An Autistic Boy Faces Mother’s Worst Fear At School

Sending our children to school is a common, yet terrifying, transition.

Saying goodbye as your child crosses the threshold of your caring arms and into the responsibility of a teacher you barely know is a big step for all parties involved.

The reality is that most of us make this choice for various reasons, and pray that the system we submitted them to delivers on all their promises.

Most children make it through their school-age years with minimal complications, excluding the occasional argument with a friend, and crushes gone awry.

For one young autistic boy, this happy ending was quickly squashed by the violent hand of a careless teacher.

NBC reported:

Law enforcement in Decatur County is investigating a former teacher in Bainbridge who is accused of assaulting a 6-year-old student with autism.”

The incident occurred at Pathways Educational Program in Bainbridge, Georgia, where Avondika Cherry was caught on camera in the classroom doing the unthinkable.

According to footage released on NBC, a 6-year-old autistic boy runs into the teacher at the edge of the classroom, wherein return she quickly turns around and immediately begins hitting the child violently multiple times.

The trust between teacher and parent was broken by this abhorrent act, where obvious physical abuse was used.

Cherry was arrested on November 8th, nearly a month after the crime was committed, and was charged with simple battery.

Autism Speaks defines the victims’s disorder:

Autism, or autism spectrum disorder, refers to a range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication, as well as by unique strengths and differences. We now know that there is not one autism but many types, caused by different combinations of genetic and environmental influences.”

Professionals who choose to work in a field that requires additional patience for children who may need special attention in certain areas of learning should make sure they are well equipped to handle themselves in all potential situations.

With the abuse that was caught on camera, Cherry did not exercise professionalism, nor the patience and care a child deserves.

The day after the incident, October 10th, Cherry was caught on a security camera once again discussing the abuse with co-workers Melissa Williams-Brown and Phyllis Rambo, according to NBC.

The women who idly stood by while a child was harmed were both charged with failing to report child abuse, and were, also, fired from Pathways, Director Jeanene Wallace reported to NBC.

I think there is even a higher level of concern for their safety because sometimes our students can’t always verbalize if something is happening”, Wallace told NBC.

Children with autism can oftentimes be non-verbal with speech difficulty at the minimum. The boy who was hit repeatedly was taken advantage of.

Wallace reported:

“”Your worst nightmare, you never want to know that a child you work with has been mistreated. I hope that the message is that we won’t tolerate this kind of behavior, no child needs to be mistreated,” said Wallace.”

Wallace, also, had reported that teachers are provided with “de-escalation training” specifically geared towards children with learning disabilities.

It is apparent that Cherry forgot, or blatantly chose not to use, her training, and instead opted for a more violent position in which her power over the child could be exercised.

This shows a fatal character flaw that should be barred from the world of caregiving in any capacity.

In the Journal of Child Abuse and Neglect, an article titled “The prevalence and correlates of abuse among children with autism served in comprehensive community-based mental health settings” it was reported:

 Caregivers reported that 18.5% of children with autism had been physically abused and 16.5% have been sexually abused.”

Mistreatment of those who need our care the most, unfortunately, is not an uncommon occurrence.

Another widely-recognized study involving research from Sullivan and Knutson (2000) was discussed in the Virginia Child Protection Newsletter, and reported:

The researchers had done a prior study in 1998 based on 3,001 maltreated children and 880 comparison children using a hospital-based sample. That study had several limitations, but gave evidence that children with disabilities were at heightened risk for maltreatment, as well as some evidence that maltreatment could be important as a cause of developmental disabilities.”

 One needs to have serious reflection into their strengths and weaknesses before seeking out a professional position that involves much of their poor qualities.

There are plenty of occupations available that will cater to one’s strengths; which in this situation would be a bouncer or mixed martial arts fighter.

With the termination and legal repercussions of the three women involved in this fiasco, it shows hope that there is justice that comes to the deserving.

Please let us know in the comments section how you feel about the mistreatment of the disabled, and what you think should be done about it.

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