A shocking story out of Texas reminds us of the need for a federal law banning the use of aversive measures in educational settings. Children with autism at Exley Elementary School in Katy had cotton balls soaked in vinegar put in their mouths as werewas forced to go on a treadmill longer and faster as a form of punishment. Incredibly, no laws exist to prohibit these and other nationally reported tactics such as being denied food and water, spraying students in the eyes with lemon juice, force feeding and shaving cream being put in the mouth.
Outraged parents, Carol and Bill Rutar, point out that if an adult did this to a child, he or she would be arrested and if this happened to a neurotypical child in a general education setting, there would be a public hue and cry against it. At this time, Exley Elementary is now under investigation. The principal would only go so far as to say that “a treadmill was used” and “vinegar was introduced." While the school will obviously not be in any legal trouble, hopefully the negative attention will lead to aversives being banned. But Texas still allows corporal punishment in schools, so the children with autism may just get paddled instead.
When my son with autism was in fourth grade, he habitually got thrown out of his classroom for stimming behaviors such as tapping his pencil. Then he was confined to a closet-sized room and forced to forego both lunch and recess to complete the work he missed while he was sobbing in the hall. Unfortunately, this is but one example of the barbaric treatment he has suffered at the hands of the school system. After so many years and so many incidents, I am home schooling him for high school.
Much progress has been made in autism awareness, but ignorance is still deeply rooted in our educational systems, which lags shocking behind current best practices for autism. National legislation is desperately needed to combat the horrible things that can happen to our children when they go to school.