Aug 20, 2012 1 Share

Bruised Souls

Black and white illustration of melancholy woman.

While the events surrounding last week’s column have been fraught with emotion, the outpouring of support from readers has been overwhelming. The assault Cameron suffered at the workplace bruised not only his cheeks, but it bruised my soul as well. I am very thankful that the bruises on Cameron’s cheeks have healed, but my soul is still aching. What has made that ache even stronger is the number of readers that responded with similar stories of their own in emails, article comments, and the AA16 Facebook page. Here are a few quotes from readers:

“My son too has been the victim of situations like this, and at the hands of nondisabled persons, care givers, peers. It’s horrible and one that has changed my life. I used to be far more happy about his growth and developments and opportunities; I have changed now. I am apprehensive about letting him out of my sight.”

“I am very sorry you and your son experienced such a horrific ordeal. I experienced something similar and learned the importance of the people with our children truly understanding their disability. My son is going to go to a part time job—it is not disability based; although he will have a job coach; and I am fearful. Thank you for writing this important article.”

“I don't have a child with autism, but I do have a son with a rare genetic condition/nonverbal 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 counseling and that everyone deserves another chance.”

“Our son, to make a long story short, lived in a home that I set up with an agency through the state and he too was severely beaten. Unfortunately my son does not function as well as your son, and his response was to run away, multiple times. I just never knew because it was only from the neck down and covered by his clothes. When I found out I immediately brought him home. I too trusted our DSHS and it failed us.”

It breaks my heart that so many people have had firsthand experience with needless violence against this most vulnerable population. One of my talents has always been that I’m a good sleeper. This soul bruising has robbed me of that talent. I am happy to report however, that a police detective came to our house to interview Cameron the day after my column was posted. The investigation is still ongoing, and I’m hopeful that I will eventually feel that justice has been served. I will continue to report on the progress of the case, and I feel empowered by all the support readers have offered through comments, emails, and sharing of my column. It’s important to stand up to violence, and not hide behind the “boys will be boys” mentality.

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It's okay to feel the way you do.

*Hugs tightly* Everything will be all right, mrs. van der Poel. You and Cameron will recover...I promise. I'll keep him in my thoughts and remember what happened, so it doesn't happen to me when I get my new job. Unfortunately, I can't work with DSHS----I've been dropped multiple times, and I just decided that if they're going to drop me, I'm not going to "need" them.But take it as a lesson learned; wherever Cameron goes now, every aspect of the job should be considered. You're better for the experience because you've learned a stronger sense of vigilance.Tell Cameron we're thinking of him. :)