6-Year-Old Autistic Boy Thrown In Handcuffs By Resource Officer

The boy's disability caused him to have a violent episode. The officer's poor attempt to deal with it is symptomatic of a lack of training for educators.

A school resource officer in Florida handcuffed a 6-year-old boy with autism for being "disruptive" in a computer lab. His mother is outraged and wants answers. 

Marisela Villa told NBC affiliate WFLA that she is working hard to raise her special needs son right. 

"Elias is very lovable, and he has his days where he doesn't want to listen,” she said. 

But she said she was shocked when she heard that an officer had thrown handcuffs on her 6-year-old child.  

The SRO said in her report that the boy was getting "out of control" in the computer lab at Zolfo Springs Elementary School, so the teacher called the boy's father. When the teacher left to meet the father at the front of the school, she left the SRO alone with the boy. 

That's when the SRO said the boy banged his head on the floor and even tried to grab her gun. The Hardee County Sherriff’s captain claimed it was "necessary" to handcuff the child. 

But Villa was not convinced. 

“How could they do this? How could they think it was OK for a 6-year-old child to be handcuffed? I didn’t understand,” Villa told WFLA. 

She went on to say, “I would like to see teachers and parents ... trained to know how to deal with a child with autism. There [are] options. You don’t handcuff a 6-year-old child.” 

For Villa, a line had clearly been crossed when the child was handcuffed, even considering the physical nature of the child's behavior. 

Children with severe autism often suffer from violent episodes. However, experts disagree on how much physical restraint should be used. Some special needs advocates say that none would be needed at all if schools applied skillful use of behavior management strategies. 

In this case, it appears that the school did not have training for such strategies in place — for both the SRO and the teacher. Clearly, the use of handcuffs goes too far. More training is needed nationwide for educators working with students with autism in order to prevent such incidents from occurring. 

Banner image credit: REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

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