An incident from this summer, in which a teacher brutalized a four-year-old girl with Autism, leaving her to face a long and difficult recovery, has prompted widespread discussion of special needs services within China.
Footage of the assault can be seen here. (NOTE: It is very upsetting.)
Beyond natural outrage at watching a child endure a brutal attack, and beyond our agreement with the broad consensus that no child should fear bodily harm at the hands of a caregiver, we need to think about how to prevent such incidences.
Special Education is an extraordinarily demanding field. Few untrained people are capable of providing the environment and services necessary to help children with autism to learn and thrive. This incident reminds of two important points: educators, care givers, and parents need access to training to know how best to work with children that have autism. And we need to be cautious about who make caregivers. Someone who attacks a child like this has deeper flaws that can be addressed through training. We need to protect children from this abuse. But many well meaning, dedicated, and caring individuals could be so much more effective if they had proper training.
Some children with autism can be particularly challenging – throwing tantrums, screaming, hitting, not following directions, not verbally communicating, etc. can be difficult for staff to address. We know from best practices that many of these behaviors can be improved through a well structured classroom environment, predictable routines, communication boards, behavior supports, sensory integration, and speech therapy. Yes, there are a few violent individuals out there that should be kept out of classrooms but let’s give everyone the training and skills to make a difference.