Aug 13, 2012 57 Share

Eyes Wide Open


Eyes of boy whose face is bruised and cut.
iStockphoto

This is one of the most difficult things I've ever had to write. There is raw emotion involved, and I'm not sure what else might erupt within me as I begin to tell this story.

Cameron, my 17-year-old son with Autism Spectrum Disorder, whose independence I've had to deliberately formulate and even force myself to allow, was assaulted at his workplace by a co-worker. It has been a horrible "facts of life" lesson for both us. 

As I chronicled in my column, "Working for a Living," Cameron was a participant in the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) sponsored by the District of Columbia’s Department of Employment Services. When Cameron enrolled, I saw this as a fantastic opportunity for him to gain real employability skills, all while being in a "mainstream" setting, as this was not a disability-based program. I wasn't sure if Cameron had the skill set that would be required of him, so I sent an email to the SYEP director, asking for guidance and recommendations for employers that would be compassionate about Cameron's challenges. My email went unanswered, but Cameron was assigned to work in the mailroom at the Department of Disability Services (DDS). His supervisor was a transition specialist at the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA). I felt at ease, knowing that even though I had not gotten a response to my email, someone, somewhere had taken the information to heart, and made sure Cameron had an appropriate placement. 

When Cameron started work this summer, I couldn't contain my excitement. I would anxiously await his arrival home each day, and fire questions at him: "How was your day?" "What did you do?" "Who did you work with?" "Did you learn your supervisor's name?" Cameron was diligent about calling me each day when he arrived at his office, and at the end of the day when he was on his way home. He was, after all, taking public transportation on his own at rush hour. This was when I feared the most for his safety, as I felt he was the most vulnerable during his commute. I coached him about not pulling out his phone to call me until he was inside his office building. We went through hypothetical situations of being approached by panhandlers for money. Or even what to do if he was threatened by a thief. 

So imagine my reaction when I learned Cameron had been assaulted at his workplace. I received an incoming call from Cameron's phone at the same time that he called every day to say he was on the way home. But instead of hearing Cameron's voice, I heard the voice of a stranger saying, "Mrs. van der Poel?" This was not a good sign. It was Cameron's supervisor, whom I misunderstood to say, "Cameron has been kicked by another employee." She said the police were on the way, and she put Cameron on the phone. My immediate thought was that this was the equivalent of a school lunchroom incident, where students with low frustration tolerance act out, and behavior interventions are put in place. The idea that the police were involved didn't even strike me as odd, as I thought this would be normal protocol since the incident happened at a government agency. 

When Cameron came on the line, I immediately went into "Calm Cameron Down" mode. He was quite upset, told me his face was swollen a bit, but he didn't think anything was broken. It was then that I realized that Cameron had in fact been hit, and not kicked. He told me that another teen—with whom he had been working all along—just came at him out of nowhere. Cameron said the youth hit him and then ran out of the building. Cameron said that another coworker was coming out of the restroom and went and got the “grown-ups.” As we talked, Cameron did calm down. In an effort to get him to think beyond the event, I asked if he wanted to come home, or if he still wanted to go the gym after work as he had planned. Cameron seemed intent on sticking with his gym plan, and this satisfied me that he was sufficiently calm. The supervisor came back on the phone, and said she would complete her report and would walk Cameron to the Metro station just to make sure he was okay. 

When I still hadn't heard from Cameron 45 minutes later, I called him to see if he was on his way yet. He said he was talking to the police, and was almost finished. Another 45 minutes went by before he called to say he was on the way to the gym. I picked him up from the gym 3 hours after I received the initial call. I was shocked when I saw him, and Cameron was clearly in a stunned state as well. His face was swelling, and he looked like someone who had just had their wisdom teeth removed. It wasn't until I got home and started photographing him that I realized he was swollen on both sides of his face. When I heard Cameron was "hit" I assumed the singular form of the word. This was clearly not the case. Cameron had sustained several blows to his face and neck, but could remember very few details of the actual beating. 

The evening of the attack, I experienced a wide variety of emotions. Surprisingly enough, guilt was one of the primary emotions I struggled with. I was angry with myself for not responding to the initial phone call differently. Why didn't I ask better questions of the supervisor? Why didn't I immediately rush to the scene so that I could support Cameron during the interview process? And then I became angry. How could this have happened? Did the assailant have a record of violent behavior, and was the agency negligent in leaving my son alone with him unsupervised? Why didn't the supervisor herself suggest I come down to the office? Was she intentionally trying to downplay the incident? I came to my own conclusions that the assailant had his own disabilities, as I assumed all of SYEP participants working at the DDS had disabilities. 

I didn't know where to begin, but I knew I needed an action plan in place. Since the incident occurred on a Friday afternoon, there was very little I could do over the weekend, aside from ask friends for advice regarding where to get advice. I am not the type of person that believes lawsuits are the solution to every injustice. That said, I did feel I had some questions that needed to be answered, and realized I would need help getting those answers. I decided I should look for legal support, but wasn't even sure what type of legal support I needed. I spoke to the responding officer the evening of the attack. She assured me that charges were pressed against the attacker, and that the case would be turned over to a detective. It took eight days for the police report to be released, meaning it took eight days for a detective to be assigned to the case. 

On the Monday following the incident, I received a call from Cameron's supervisor at DDS. She was calling to check on how Cameron was doing. I took this as an opportunity to get some answers to a few of my many questions about the event. As it turns out, the alleged assailant is 17 years old and has no documented disability. The supervisor didn't know that Cameron had any disabilities until he started working there. So my assumption that Cameron had been placed at DDS because of his disability was totally wrong. It was essentially the luck of the draw that he came to work there. 

I thought it was such a great idea to enroll Cameron in an employment program that wasn't disability-based. I so wanted to expand Cameron's community beyond his relatively small school population of students with similar disabilities, and get him out of that special needs cloister. Any opportunity to learn job skills AND earn money is a clear bonus. Or so I thought. I've found myself second-guessing the rationale behind enrolling Cameron in SYEP. I'm not going to give up on the desire to increase Cameron’s opportunities for inclusion, but maybe I need to be more selective about the placements I pursue on his behalf. But then again, who could blame me for assuming the DDS would be a good start? 

Many people suffer senseless beatings every day—often in places they should be safe. But with the rise of mass shootings, and the outcry to pay more attention to the trail of red flags the shooters inevitably have, I don't understand how this random act of violence doesn't trigger a stronger response from the authorities. A full 10 days after the attack, and it would seem that the "suspect" hasn't so much as had a finger wagged in his face. The motive behind my son's attack seems to be of no consequence to anyone in authority. For all we know, this may have been a hate crime. Cameron may well have been victimized for no reason other than his disability. 

I honestly think that if this assault had occurred at a Metro station, I would chalk it up to what an attorney friend referred to as "life in the big city." But this happened in the workplace. By someone with whom Cameron had been working for 6 weeks. The alleged assailant’s identity is known to both the police and to the employer. Isn't this evidence of an all-around systemic failure? Are the anti-bullying campaigns and the "see something, say something" nothing more than lip service? Why are there no consequences? 

Actually, there are consequences. But so far they only seem to be for the victim and his family. Cameron and I are forever changed by this event. I think I speak for both of us when I say that a massive chunk of our faith in humanity has been blasted away. I am heartbroken. It's a cruel world out there, and we should be thankful this incident was relatively minor. I've also lost my faith in the agencies that provide adult services. I've had very little hands-on experience to date, but this incident has greatly increased my skepticism. I feel as though I did what I should've done on my end, by disclosing Cameron's disability and asking for guidance in an appropriate placement. The one good thing that has come out of this is that I have lost my naiveté. My eyes are now wide open.



Comment Options

Anonymous

eyes wide open

i have a 12 year old female id mild and a 17 year old autistic, with limited verbal exchanges..i have taken every oppourtunity to teach and be there for them. So many people we thought would help us...just drop the ball. I am sick and tired of the excuses for what they allow. From schools, to summer camps. When will we wake up. Just like the typicals teach their kids...(male and especially female) we should invest in self defense classes. Let me get this straight...your kid..gets on the bus...had a job...goes to the gym???  I am tired of being the victim, when my kids are hit...if you are gonna go down...go down with a fight...because the typicals would do that to.

Anonymous

I too have had problems

I too have had problems throughout my sons school career. He is now 19 and we are trying to encorage him to go out into the "world" as well.  As much as you are anti-lawsuit, just having a lawyer can get some attention on the subject. I have never sued anyone but have shown up at the school with a lawyer and things changed quickly. The "grown-ups" paid more attention to protecting him after that.I hope this is the last of this type of problem you have. If not, then come out fighting. There are a lot of us out here with special children and we just need to support one another the best we can.

Anonymous

I feel for you and my heart

I feel for you and my heart breaks as I read your post.  I just wanted you to know that someone in a distant land (Belgium) is praying for Cameron.  I hope he is okay.

Anonymous

bullied

My son (he has aspergers) is now 38 yrs old and was also bullied by students and teachers when he was in school. He was beat up on the way home from school more than once. His books were all thrown in a pond and we had to pay for them! The school did nothing! The prnicipal always told us he should learn to fight for himself (even though he knew my son was jumped by 3 other students). We started driving him to and from school and he was bullied more. He finally refused to go to school and the courts stepped in and took him directly from a court hearing to a juvenile detention center where he spent the next 4 days behind bars. He would never tell us what happened to him there but he has never been the same. It totally broke whatever spirit he had left. ( Oh, by the way, we did have an attorney---worthless). The memory of these experiences are still with him and he bases most things in his life around fear. He is a computer whiz and is going to make me a computer out of a toaster just for fun! He is amazing but won't leave the house. 

Anonymous

my story

I am sure tthis happens far more frequently than anyone would like to believe.  A similar situation happened to my son sho has asbergers.  He was assulted by another student while getting off the school bus.  Unfortunately, because the other child was under the age of 18, he is "protected" because he is a minor and the school would not even tell me the name of the student who hit my son.  What about the school "protecting" my child?  I kept asking myself, "why are they so concerned with protcting the child who assulted my son when the should be more concerned with protecting my child from abbbusive kids".  It almost seems more difficult having a child that has asbergers than a child who has a severe dissability.  There are no programs available for those "middle of the road" children. You either are labled with a dissability or mainstreamed into sociaety. For the many kids who need more patience and understanding, there is no help.  The teachers seem to be annoyed with these type of students when all they need is a little more attention, patience and understanding.  Usually, these kids are kind, sweet, respectful and follow the rules.  Because my son is hign functioning, the school mainstreamed him and was very quick to drop his IEP, saying they have "no services for him".  Yet, had the IEP followed him through school, it probably would have been more helpful and bring more awareness to the teachers that although he looks normal, he still has special needs and there is a reason that he seems just a little different that the other kids.  I think that may have brought more awareness to each teacher and he may have recieved more understanding and acceptance throughout the school year than he actually received.

Anonymous

Secure Warrants Yourself

Hi Julie,I am the parent of a 13-year-old Asperger's child, but I am also a retired police captain.  There is no reason why you should not be able to go to Juvenile and Domestic relations court and and get a warrant (juvenile petition) on this boy for assaulting Cameron.  I am sorry that the authorities have let you and Cameron down in this incident, but now it is time to take the law into your own hands and be your child's advocate.  Unfortunately, we spend most of our time as parents of special needs doing that because everything seems to be a battle to ensure the rights of our children.  The suspect information should be on the report.  If it is not...then demand the suspect information.  I would also go the the police departmentments Professional Standards Unit and file a formal complaint and have them answer as to why charges have not been filed for such a blatant and obvious assault.  I hope that this information helps you find justice for your son. 

Anonymous

I hope each day....

As a father of a child with ASD, I fear and struggle each day with the future for my son.  He is five now and made such progress in the past 3 years.  He was such a normal baby and even up to 18 months showed no signs of any issues.  Then he had the shots....and I can remember the day he said "daddy" for almost a full year without hearing it again....He is five now and has a 2 year old sister that he loves and plays with.  He still likes to do things by himself most times, but has improved with his social skills and is in a mainstream class at a private school.I am so sorry and angered to hear about the events that occurred for you and your son.  Hearing of this story only makes me worry about my son's future and events that may occur when he gets older and into grade school.  I struggle each day with my emotions and that I know I can't be there to keep him safe all the time.  I know something will happen at some point in his life, even I was picked on growning up, but for a child with special needs it is just down right cruel.My thoughts are with you and your son.  Good luck and thank you for sharing.  

Anonymous

How sad

How sad that this person had to attack a defenseless teen instead of someone who can actually defend themselves 

Anonymous

i am truly so upset by this

i am truly so upset by this account, it's better off i don't comment what my true feelings are. all i can say without cursing is that you are a better person than. my son is 10, so we have a few more years before we encounter these types of challenges....i really hope you continue to persue this until you both find closure. that's all i can say without losing my shit at this moment! i

Anonymous

Thank you for posting this. I

Thank you for posting this. I wept as I read it. My son is very high functioning (nerdy) Aspergers who was badly bullied and ostracised at primary school. Good luck in getting justice for Cameron.

Anonymous

Sorry ... and Go Legal!

I am so sorry that this happened to Cameron and that you have had to go through this. I am sorry that the 'system' failed you both. I have 2 children with Autism that are both very young. Bullying when they get older is one of my most significant concerns.I am not an American (I am Australian) and I understand and agree that our socieites are becoming too legalisitc but sometimes it is these avenues you must use when injustice is done. I am sure that the the RSA and the DDA being forced to explain how they failed to provide a safe working environment person with a disabiliy and that the incident was the result of a hate crime targetting that disability ... that sounds to me like a legal and PR nightmare that they will want to get resolved quickly. And then you add that the police are failing to act ... It just keeps getting worse for the authorities ... and that is before you get to the actual perpetrator of the offense. It is easier for the authorities if they drag their feet and do nothing. They have limited resources and this potentially could be very embrassing for public agencies and officials. But it must be done. 

Anonymous

thank you for sharing your

thank you for sharing your experience with us.  i feel you did a good thing by having your son attempt employment.  i just was told in my sons most recent IEp that they dont forsee him being able to graduate high school & live a normal mainstreamed lifestyle.  thats something thats so scary for me for him.  was Cameron able to go back to work again?  maybe a diferrent type of place or something?  i truly hope this didnt diminish any of his desires to work with or have trust in the public.  all us parents have to do our best job to educate our children to be more understading of those with disabilities of any knid.  it is our duty to ensure that they're safe & treat others with respect.  unfortuneatly we know it doesn't always work that way.  it sounds like your very aware of your situation and are taking very goo dcare of your son.  great job mom :)

Anonymous

Thank you

Thank you so much for sharing your story. I have a two year old son that has a chromosome abnormality and also has autism. I have been so worried about how people are going to treat him verbally but had not thought about him being treated bad physically. I thank you for telling your story and reminding me that not everyone is kind. I will still look to the future with hopeful eyes but will keep a closer eye on what my sons future is. 

Anonymous

Outraged

Stories like this outrage me. I have a 13 year old with ASD and he's bullied everyday not only by students, but also by teachers. I've been fighting these issues for years, and nothing ever gets done. If the shoe was on the other foot, though, they'd be trying to institutionalize our children because they'd be a threat, but it's ok when our children are threatened. I like to think that one day these things will change, but I'm skeptical that they will. Although, my mom used to drive a special ed. school bus about 25 years ago, and she says it has improved since then but not much. It was really hard for her sometimes to see the abuse that those children endured, and she said that the teacher's were often way worse than other children ever dreamed of being. It's sad that people can't just learn to love and accept each other for who they are, and understand that people don't choose to be disabled and endure enough hardships without bullies causing them more.

Anonymous

Thank You.

I just want to thank you for telling your sons story. I have a 15 year old son with aspergers and an 11 year old son also with aspergers. My oldest wants a job and although he needs guidance and a lot of reinforcement, he is pretty independent. I now know what to cover before employment and to go over with him. He is completely mainstreamed in high school and we had an incident last school year of a kid giving him a black eye out of frustration with him. Thanks again.

Anonymous

I feel your pain

My son has also been attacked because of his Autism. Very long story shortened He went to local play area to find a lad waiting for him and launching a violent attack on him. My eldest whos autistic was 14 at the time his attacker 16 a lad visiting our village to see his girlfriend. My youngest son 11 at the time saw his brother going blue rode his bike as fast as he could into his brothers attacker. The 16 year old then turned on my youngest son repeatedly kicking him in the back and head.The kids from our village ran screaming and crying to our house saying D##### was killing my sons we raced up the road to find the attacker running to safety of his girlfriends house. We callled the police and the boys were interviewed then taken to the police station a few weeks later for vidoe interviewing. The case wasn't taken to court but the attacker was given a caution and a criminal record that would be disolved  when he turned 17. We  were told if it had been a racist attack it would have been easierto get the case to court but in the UK there was no law against attacking someone because they were disabled in the eyes of the law it just doesn't exsist.I was supported by our community they rallied round my boys  the local kids called eveyday for my sons trying to get them to come back out and play again. The adults in our community on finding out it was the girlfriend who instigated herr boyfriend atttacking my son blanked the family and the girl as they were heard laughting about it. They were no longer included in any of the village activities and finally they moved out of the village afew weeks agao as the village community kept this up over the last 18 months with no encoragement from me. I asked a friend why they were doing this her reaction was in eyes of our community the attack on your son because of his autism was an attack on us all he's a lovely young man who is always polite and respectful we understand he has his moments but we all love him. I feel very touched by their loyality and disgust in the attack just a shame the law doesn't feeel the same. The kids in our village again ran to our house to tell me on mass that the girl concerned was moving out as they spoke they were cheering and shouting. The kids had refused to speak to the girl concerned over the 18 months and when she turned up in the play area they all left the kids kept this up for 18 months. I even began feeling a little bit sorry for her I did speak to kids one day about this telling them if you want to talk to her I dont mind. Their reaction was why would we want to talk to her after whats she's done. Wasn't much I could say to that. All I can hope for is the law catches up with the feeling in my community that its a crime to attack some one because they are disabled!! So sorry you have had to go through such pain I was lucky having my comunity behind me but the pain that there was so little that could be done in the eyes of the law is still with me. Bleesings fro the future to you and your sonxx

Anonymous

Omg, this was a horrible

Omg, this was a horrible situation and I am so sorry it happened to your family. As a sister of of a pre-teen whom I refer to as my brotherson, I am highly paranoid of situations such as this. Especially when the child may not be able to interpret when a situation turns bad for no reason at all.  I am also alarmed and highly pissed off that "normal" kids/ppl are bullying those with challenges. Newsflash world: They aren't "normal" they are ppl w/undiagnosed problems and they need be handled asap. My primary concerned for my brotherson and others on the spectrum will endure more traumautic interactions trying to resolve issues bc they look "normal" or like everyone else and are treated w/a level of indifference and impatience that in fact is intolerable. I try to console myself and others with the knowledge that sometimes kids' behavior is a direct result of something going wrong in their households. I have no such empathy for adults -_- . Please update us if there is any additional news on this case and thanks for sharing your story.

Anonymous

Denise

Very powerful article on the breakdown of society and the law.  So sorry for your son and for you.  Don't blame yourself, you did what you could and has made you stronger and less naive.  Don't give up the good fight!

Anonymous

I, too, am so very sorry that

I, too, am so very sorry that this happened to your son and to you.  I have a 14 yr old son with autism and can only imagine how I would feel if I were in your shoes.  I will pray that, in the future, God will bless your son and you in ways that you would have never expected.  

Anonymous

I'm sorry to hear about your

I'm sorry to hear about your son my son is 13 and has aspergers and he's been lucky  so far that no one at school has been bulling him,I  only get to see him a few hours a week but try to stay in his life and help hm out and the incident with your son always has me worried for him,because when I was growing up I  was bullied and beat up on afew occasions, hope everything worksout with your sn and God Bless.

Anonymous

Your Story.

I have the same fears, and can relate to your worries.  My son is 22 and has Aspbergers.  Bullying and getting "picked" on was constant! I always stuck up for him.  He is back in my life after living with his father for 3 years, and going nowhere in his life.  I got him on SSI and am working with local agencies to get him a job, and eventually an apartment.  He too does not drive, so walking or bus is his options.  We constantly struggle, and argue about safety, and what to do and what not to do/say in public.   His problem is social.  He tends to take a long time to get his words and meanings across.  Frequently closing his eyes to get the words straight.   He wants to fit in and occasionally says something odd.  (Thats what go him in those "weirdo" siutations in highschool).  He likes simplicity,  hates keeping track of his checkbook, receipts, etc. dislikes spending money on groceries, but wont bat an eye to a cool Metallica T-shirt!!!   All those grown-up independent things.  But my biggest fear is him being assulated or taken advantage of by someone else.  I too tell him to keep his phone in his pocket, dont let anyone ask you for money, dont leave your wallet on table. or leave your beverage unatteneded. (All those things we dont give a second guess)   Thanks again Julie, for sharing.  Its a day to day struggle, and I hope someday this world will change their view on kids (always be kids to us) with Autism Spectrum disorders.  take Care.  teri

Anonymous

Right there with you

Thank you for writing this.  I am so sorry this happened to Cameron and hope he is better. I have an 18 year old son with ASD and we are getting ready to go through placement with the state employment agency for training and I am concerned about workplace safety and how other workers and his employer will respond to his unusual habits.  He is a hard worker but of course, the bluntness of his ASD can sometimes be offensive to others, especially when they don't follow the rules.

Anonymous

I am sorry to hear what had

I am sorry to hear what had happened to your son. I read your article teary eyed because I worry about things like this all the time and my ASD son and he is only 4 years of age... I wish things could have been different because the world is so CRUEL. People try to encourage you to not shelter your children as much but I believe I have a VALID reason too. In the same light I don't want to hinder him in growing and unfortunately that has to do with him fitting in with the "normal people" (so to speak). Things happen in our lives, it is said what does n't break you makes you stronger but unfortunately it makes you skeptical and lose faith in people as well...I don't know how that would be in reference to being stronger. Everyone is not bad, it just takes longer to weed through the people who actually have the best intent for your son in mind. With our children we have to do less assuming and get FACTS so we can have a better idea of what to prepare them for. That incident could have happened anywhere, disability facility or not. I don't see any fault of your own of what happened. We learn from events that happen in our lives. God bless you and your son.

Anonymous

So sorry.

I read this as the father of a autistic 5 year old and this is giving me chills because in 3 days he is starting regular kindergarten. Kids that do not understand my little boy and who might choose to bully him because of his ASD have kept me up at nights. I'm just hoping that Cameron and you receive justice. Be persistent with the police, ask them questions, specific questions related to the aprehension of the suspect. I know you wrote this on here but if you haven't done so go to your local TV media news station. Police seem to get faster results when their dealings are in full view of the public. Most of all know you have the support of people.

Anonymous

Once I got past my initial

Once I got past my initial disgust at what was done to your son. My next thoughts were that I applaud you for your work to foster your sons independance. Today so many people hear that their child has any type of developmantal delay or disability & jump to the smothering mode. They do everything for the child setting up a situation where the child has no chance to learn & explore there abilities. You did the oppisite. Please do not give up on your effort to foster Cameron's independance. Modify how some things are done of course. But you deserve a pat on the back for the way you are aising your son to be a part of society not hidden. Eyes more open as you move forward after this yes but keep moving forward. Way to go mom

Anonymous

Thank you

Thank you for sharing.  We parents all fear this exact thing.  It seems that people are increasingly polarizing into the merciful and the merciless.  Just read the comments after any youtube video and you can see where people fall pretty easily.  This is why I approve all comments after my autism videos on youtube.  After viewing a video of my son, a commenter actually tried to post that my son should have been  shot like a dog at birth because he didn't deserve to live.  I have rationaiized to myself that lacking mercy is a disability unto itself, and is a whole lot more damaging to a person and society than having autism, because of the great destruction that mercilessness perpetuates.  Our kids seem to be the lightning rods that allow others mercy or mercilessness to become demonstrated.  The only good side effect I see is that it becomes increasingly easy for us to surround ourselves with wonderful people.  The bad eggs stick out like sore thumbs.  We ought to have mercy barometers at job sites--maybe we should start a list somewhere of friendly businesses.  Thoughts?

Anonymous

Thanks for sharing your

Thanks for sharing your story! I have a 9 year old boy with ASD and I always think about how is going to be when he get to his teen years. Reading this article helped me think about things that I have to be aware of. Its realy but our kids are going to grow and are going to be exposed to these situations. It is so sad to know that all of the anti- bullying campaings are not really sustained by good laws...

Anonymous

Emotional gamet

Hi,My name is Justine and I am a pediatric occupational therapist who works with children and adolescents on the specrtum. I have spent my entire career working on just these sorts of issues with the kids. I have long been an advocate of children's appropriateness in the community and then as they move into adolescence, personal and sexual awareness safety. We constantly discuss bullying (many kids are unaware that they are even being bullied), and how to obtain help from trusted people when they sense something is amiss. I am devaestated to hear about this incident and would like your permission to share it with the families I serve.One of the most challenging things with individuals on the spectrum is that they can memorize what to do in a challneging situation, but IF it is even slightly different from what you went over, there is lettle generalization to a differing event, not to mention, actually putting the steps in practice in the moment. I coninually am on the alert for ways to teach my charges personal safety and I can assure you that good will come of this incident for others....I WILL share this as another way to inlighten parents and children about possible dangers in the community and educate them on the steps they must take to be safe.Please thank your brave son for allowing you to share this troubling story, so that it can benfit others. Every single emotion that you experienced I did too as a result of your couragous writing. Thank you!Justine Faghihifar, OTR 

Anonymous

Disheartened

I'm sorry this has happened to you and your family. Your story is something we all dread and fear. My son is 14 and entering his first year in high school. By sharing this hopefully you will open the eyes to awareness.

Anonymous

:(

Love and strength to you and yours... Kristina (mom of a 5-year-old with ASD)--

Anonymous

Another instance of the

Another instance of the loving inoccents our kids project being taken advantage of.  This is sickening to me.  I feel so hurt for your family.  I wish things in the world could be different.  I find that I get to a point where I feel my daughter is doing well, that yes I can trust she will make good choices for herself that others are actually looking out for her.  Then it happens.  It happens all the time.  These "unfortunate" unfair events we all know too well.  I wish there was a point in our childrens lives where we would know others would stop taking advantage of the innocence.  But, they don't, they continue and it hurts me more than anything else.  I wish there was an answer.  I wish others would understand and be better for it. Parents need to teach their children compassion to all others, tolerane, patience and most of all respect. These wonderful traits seem to fall extremely short more and more.  It to me is unacceptable. 

Anonymous

ASD

I hate that this happened to your son!  I just had to take my 17 year old son away to college.  He chose the school and I think/hope he will enjoy it, but he is 4 hours away from home and alone.  I've told the Students with Disabilities office at his school and the Housing office that he's an Asperger's kid.  I talked to his R.A.  I am hoping that no one will bully him, play tricks on him, nor manipulate him, but it is all so scary not knowing for sure. I hope your son is doing well!  Also I hope that the police and your son's employer have taken some action!

Anonymous

I am so freaked out by this

I am so freaked out by this story of what happened to your son.  This just reinforces my belief that my 11 year old high functioning autistic child is most successful in the world of special needs and god willing can remain in that world for the rest of his life.  I have no interest in forcing his way into "mainstream" the mainstream is awful, dangerous, and over-rated.  

Anonymous

I'm with you

My son is 13 and is high functioning, but I pulled him out of school in the 6th grade when the bullying started.  He lives in our little world surrounded by friends and family that love and protect him and he will stay like that forever as far as I am concerned.  I will honor his wishes for a mainstream life if he ever desires one, but secretely hope that time never comes. 

Anonymous

Your son with Autism who was attacked

You do not need his workplace to make the 1st step. If your son was at the police station there should be an report... follow up on that and make sure charges are pressed. It does not matter that the attacker is under 18. Get a lawyer... find out who the attacker's parents are.. and sue them. That may seem petty... but that is sometimes the only way to get people to pay attention. What happened to your son IS A CRIME. 

Anonymous

Assaults ignored

My son, three at the time, was assaulted in a restaurant in front of myself and numerous other people AND on camera.  I of course defended my son (verbally) and called the police.  When the police officer arrived, he decided to arrest me.  Person hits my son....gets off scott free.....I (VERBALLY ONLY) defend my son, and I am going to jail?  Something very very wrong in society today.  

Anonymous

Bullying happens to a lot of autistic people

I'm so sorry that happened, mrs. van der Poel. I know how Cameron's feeling.I'm autistic as well----Aspergers, and they think just a little "more", which I don't know what that means----and every day I go out is a chance for me to be accepted, but in most cases I'm belittled, bullied, and on one occasion at karaoke, spiked with a date-rape drug. Luckily on that occasion, the karaoke girl took me home. :)People don't understand individuals like Cameron and me. I've had people call me Sibyl, crazy, every name in the book----and they don't understand why I'm mad. I go into fits of rage when I'm bullied sometimes, and in high school my Aspergers made me unreasonable and narcissistic. I'm 27 years old now, though, and I've learned valuable skills like CPR/AED certification. By and large, adults seem to tolerate me. (But by that, I mean "older" adults, people in authority.)Children, oddly enough, love me. Around birth to 8-9 years of age, they seem to just want to be near me...I've had times where a mother will come up and ask, "Can you watch my daughter M---? She seems to like you," and their acceptance surprises me. If people my age don't like me, and teenagers/early adults make fun of me, how do kids like me?I think Cameron might be good in a setting around children. Maybe if you got him into a CPR/AED class, he could use that as resumé building----any time someone lists emergency certification as one of their skills, their application goes "to the top of the list until XX employer finds someone better".

Anonymous

upset

I just don't understand people anymore.. This upsets me..If I knew the names of the kids that did this I'd probably be in there faces yelling for you and for cameron..I am so tired of just bad behvior and people getting away with it.. I have low tolorance for even the word retard if people use it I go off..I blame a lot of the problems with the lack of compassion other parents teach there kids.. Basically people just have kids and think they are just going to know how to be good people.. THEY DO NOT..A child is a little purpose in need of guidance..I am so sorry for Cameron.

Anonymous

Eyes wide open

I'm so sorry that this happened to your son and that you as his mom have to go through it too. These are the things lthat wake me in the wee hours...my son just started a new job and I worry about his fitting in and ability to do the job...never would I even consider the possibility of his being attacked.

Anonymous

Thanks for Sharing your story

Julie van der Poel -- Thanks for sharing your story, I have a 13 Year old autistic son that could easily be in Cameron's shoes in a few years.  The story really resonated with me, and I shared it on Google+.  I don't think you are on that site, but if you are here is the link -- https://plus.google.com/101218294728756395700/posts/9DKRG99SKT6    Assuming though that you will not be able to see the supportive responses, I want to pass them along to you here:    Steve said:  My heart goes out to Cameron and his mother. Such a senseless shame - I hope that they can put it behind them and find a healthier solution for him. What a terrible situation.    Jan said:  Oh my gosh - this is terrible. Thank you for this post. Raising a typical child is hard, raising a child with special needs is exhausting - you can't take anything for granted or ever let your guard down. I feel for this mother and her son. I feel she's gained new strength and will move forward with a new and clearer vision about this world we live in. Again, thank you for this post - it has Opened My Eyes ........   Ellen said:  very sad indeed, it made me cry, :'( I can so see this happining to my sons as well... my worst nightmare ....   Tommi said:  These kinds of things make me both angry and very sad... And I admire people who share their stories like this, I hope it makes people think and take bullying seriously.    Again, thanks for posting your story, and best wishes to you and Cameron. 

Anonymous

I know this all too well!

My son is thirty-nine years old and has been bullied all his life, even as an adult.  Although he has autism, intractable epielpsy, and severe learning disorders he has been able to live his dream of independence for the past fifteen years. Allowing our children to live out in the "real world" is tough for many of us parents.  I know about letting go and teach all about it around the country.  We cannot allow our fears to become our children's fears.  The more our children are exposed to the "real world" the more they learn.  Yes, bad things do happen to good people, but without having firsthand personal experiences how else will they learn?  I also do workshops on bullying for our adult children. You might be surprised that many of our autistic adults do not know that they have choices.  For example, if they are being harassed they can walk away.  In a recent workshop a young man said I never thought of that. We must educate in the bully department just as we do with everything else.  

Anonymous

Hello, im very interested in

Hello, im very interested in the workshops that you mention is there any info you can provide me with, im sure there are more people who are intersted also.  Thank you very much

Anonymous

Cameron

I was already fearful of letting my young adult out of my sight for work, camp and etc. after reading this I don't know what I am going to do about letting my son go out into this cruel world. It's scary but I trust God to protect him when I am not there his angels will be there. God bless you Mom of Cameron

Anonymous

Response from police??

I was very disturbed to read your story. I hope you will update us on whether the police officer who posted above got back to you to explain further details about the incident and why the suspect was not charged/if he will be charged. I don't have a child with autism, but I do have a son with a rare genetic condition/non-verbal and I had a somewhat similar experience where a school staff person dragged him across a playground very roughly and threw him in his wheelchair and was reported by other staff. There was a police investigation but the union protected the staff person from having to make a statement to the police. We had to go through all kinds of interviews with police and CAS. The police recommended that the staff person not be in a class with our son again but that we not press charges. The staff person never returned to the school. Last year my son changed schools to go to a mainstream school and we found out months later that the staff person involved was working at this school. So there were no checks in the system to make sure this person was not around my son. I was told that the staff person had received consequences and counselling and that everyone deserves another chance.http://bloom-parentingkidswithdisabilities.blogspot.com/

Anonymous

Police...unions

Your son was assaulted and the  union was able to prevent any charges from being pressed and not able to get a statement from the staff member who assaulted him?  I hope you fought that ...and hard!!!  he needs a criminal record so he does not do this again.  That is blatant discrimination against a disabled person because we all know that if it were anyone else, charges could be pressed

Anonymous

 As a father of a 6 year old

 As a father of a 6 year old boy with Autism, I am very realistic on what may happen to him when he's older.  I wasn't surprised at him being bullied but I am angrier that I thought I was going to be.  You still did the right thing in trying to expose him to this cruel world.  We can't be there all the time and certainly can't help our children when we're gone from this world.  All we can do is try to set up a network while we can for our children.  Keep up your hard work for your son.

Anonymous

Eyes wide Open

I am not a parent, but, a grandparent of a child on the Austism spectrum.  He is a very handsome 8 yr old who has grown physically greater than most 8 yr olds. My concern is what will happen to him if he is assaulted by anyone, particularly someone who may appear younger or smaller than him, and he uses a natural reflex to defend himself and is accused of being the perpetrator because of his inability to articulate what really occured.  I ache for what has happened to your son. Unfortuanetly, in this environment in which we live( I also live in the Washington, DC Metro area) it is almost impossible to have contact with anyone and not in someway be attack. The problem, as it seems to me, is that there is a lack of ownership in the community from friends, relatives, neighbors, law enforcement, school officials, social services agencies and the like, of the concerns associated with and the experiences of so many young people(1 of every 100) in our everyday surroundings. Is it possible that the true Bully is not the one who assaulted your son, but the system who decided that it was ok to ignore your initial email?

Anonymous

Apologies

As described, this sounds like a horrific incident for you and your son. A member of the Police Department should have been in contact with you and your son by now. I will find out what went so terribly wrong and someone will be in contact with you to provide an update today.

Peter Newsham
Assistant Chief of Police

Anonymous

Truly Heartbreaking!

I am truly sorry for what happened to Cameron and my heartbreaks for both of you.  Your story mademe weep as I saw the pictures of Cameron and his injuries and I know it tookgreat courage to share your pain.  As amother of an 18 year old boy with severe learning disabilities, I constantly worryabout his safety as he gains his independence.  All we can do is pray and hope that the peoplethey encounter will be kind and compassionate toward them. However, this doesnot always happen and it is beyond our control. I believe you did all you could to protect Cameron and the system failedyou. I know Cameron knows that he has a Mom, who loves and cares for him deeplyand one who will fight for him no matter what. I pray that there will be justice for Cameron and I know that Cameronhas a bright future ahead of him and this incidence will not deter him fromachieving all that God has in store for him. I hope that you will find comfort in in knowing that all mothers, especiallythose of children with special needs, share your pain and will continue to praythat you will get through this ordeal. God bless you.

Anonymous

Cameron is strong. Now he is stronger!

My heart aches to know that this could happen to any child.  I am the parent of a special needs  child and share the fears that mothers of special needs children experience.  We work hard to let go and allow our children to grow.  You did the right thing in allowing Cameron to work this summer, and I believe his summer experience was a success.  No, getting assaulted is not the highlight of the summer, Cameron's grace and survival is the highlight!  Cameron now knows how strong he is.  He knows that he can speak up for himself.  He knows that bad things happen and when they happen to him he survives!!  Dearest Julie, you too have learned much during this experience.  Take the time to see how strong you are and how strong your son is.  Keep supporting him while you push him.  It's scary but our kids are stronger than we realize.  Go Cameron!!