MONROE, LA (10/18/19)– After a Monroe teacher allegedly hit a 4 year old autistic child with a ruler and locked another in a bathroom for discipline, Healthcare Officials are speaking out on how kids on the spectrum should be disciplined.
“Before you do any discipline, you have to let these children learn to trust you,” said John Wesley Reed, Physically Therapy Assistant at Melanie Massey.
Kids with autism have sensitive sensories, everything they feel and hear is heightened. Sensory overload is where a lot of behavior problems come from as they try and cope.
“They don’t understand emotions like you and I do, so they don’t understand always that an adult is mad at them, or happy with them or proud of them. That makes it real difficult to introduce any type of discipline,” said Reed.
Monroe public schools do allow corporal punishment, however, there are laws that exclude kids on the spectrum.
“There should only be minimal discipline, but never physically discipline with a child with special needs. You have to develop that connection in order to want to respond to any form of discipline,” said Reed.
Kids with autism will react differently to being disciplined, meaning the punishment has to change from one kid to the next.
“No two children with autism are the same, and what we need to realize is that parents have spent more time with the child and they always know more about the child then we do,” said Reed.
In addition, the parents are the best insight on problems. Officials say the way in which Melissa Lacomb handled both students is the reason she’s charged with two felony counts of cruelty to juveniles.
“Be patient, realize that the child wants to connect with you and is just, unfortunately, not sure how. That’s the struggle with our autism children,’ said Reed.
Monroe superintendent, Brent Vidrine, says the school reports all allegations of abuse. Lacomb has been placed on leave pending the outcome of the investigation.