According to the National Institutes of Health, autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a “range of complex neurodevelopment disorders, characterized by social impairments, communication difficulties, and restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behavior.”
Sandra Domenech became aware of this column through a friend who read it in a Florida weekly. She said she and her 13-year-old son with ASD recently moved out of Florida due to unkind treatment of him by school officials, police, and students. Domenech has a disability herself arising from severe arthritis caused in large measure by working at her former lawn care business. She has been separated from her husband since 2011. He’s deaf.
She said of her son, “He was born prematurely and at birth his heart stopped. He spent the first month of his life in a hospital. He didn’t walk until about two and a half and didn’t talk until 6. He’s not like most other kids.” Like many children with ASD, her son has a sensory disorder in which loud noises and physical touch can lead to emotional meltdowns.
Domenech said children in Florida had bullied her son. And in February 2014, she said school aides there allowed him to walk alone around the school campus and, when teachers and students blocked his entrance into a school cafeteria, her son had an ASD-related meltdown. A school resource officer transported him to a behavioral facility that didn’t have experience serving children with autism that had special needs like her son. (Her son requires occupational, physical, and speech therapy.) She tried getting him out. Eventually, a judge ruled in favor of Domenech, who, along with her son, recently moved to Tennessee to shield him from more trouble.
She said, “I’m a strong person and have tried hanging on. I can’t believe they did what they did (in Florida). It’s put a strain on my son. Where we are in Tennessee, he has already been beaten up. When I asked why he didn’t stand up for himself, he said he didn’t want to get in trouble (and end up being taken away like in Florida).”
As for advising parents of children with autism, she said, “Make sure there’s a(n) (appropriate) class for your child at school and make sure the people in that class are qualified and certified to deal with your child’s disability. As for me, I will fight for my kid until down to my last tooth and nail.”
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