***Some people have trouble reading through Bradley’s Story because of the abuse he endured. I urge you to at least scoll to the bottom for links to the youtube video Bradley and I created (he thinks he is a movie star, and is obsessed with the world seeing him, so if nothing else, look at it to keep his dream in reality). There are also links for my new favorite book addressing this matter as well as to the facebook group to support keeping these kids safe. Thanks! **** ~Amy AKA: Daisy.
Bradley is our 9 year old son who happens to also carry the label of ‘classical autism’. I call it a label because, honestly, Bradley ‘s personality has traits that fit the definition of autism… autism does not define Bradley. Does that even make sense? I guess what I am trying to say is that Bradley is an amazing kiddo, despite his label.
I am sharing his story with the world so that we can raise awareness for the abuse and mistreatment of mentally disabled individuals by their educators and care givers. The person/people responsible for Bradley’s abuse are not being held accountable for their actions. I want everyone to know that this DOES happen and it is important that we, as a society, do whatever it takes to keep these kids and adults safe. They have a rough enough path in life as it is; they don’t deserve to be abused. No one EVER deserves abuse. EVER.
We are a military family and reside on a military installation. All 4 of the older children attend Department of Defense schools (which means they are military ran). We have been at this particular installation close to a year now… however, both of my autistic children are still not stable from our move. Those who are not familiar with the characteristics of autism take note: autistic children do not handle change. Moving 1200 miles doesn’t work out well.
Since the move, Bradley went from thriving in a mainstream (typical) classroom with dedicated para support to totally shutting down. He was placed in a self-contained SPED classroom full time. As parents, we were very supportive of this decision. Yes, it was a giant step backward, but our goal for Bradley is just like any other parent – we want our child to learn at school and the mainstream classroom was not working out for him at this point.
The classroom had 6 other students, Bradley made 7 with 5 adults. Do the math, that is almost 1 to 1 ratio. Academically, Bradley was doing very well, but we began noticing behavior problems. Historically, at his previous schools, Bradley had some ‘rigid’ days, but he never had acted out in a way that required a restraint – EVER. However, restraint became a commonality in his educational setting. Interestingly enough, the school did not feel the need to contact me about the restraints. The only way I was aware of it was through the report of my daughter, Haley, whom also has classical autism. She was in a classroom across the hall and could hear Bradley screaming. It is in her nature to be his ‘protector’ and she would witness some of the restraints because she would run to his aid.
The first notable account was in September. Both children got off of the school bus hysterically crying. I asked them what happened and Haley blurts out “they choked Bradley, they punched him in the eye, they were trying to kill him!” Now, that sounds quite dramatic, but please understand, autistic children do have a skewed perception of what they see. I looked Bradley over, and he had no marks on his eye or neck. However, I wanted to know what happened that made my children so upset. I took the children back to the school and requested a meeting. The assistant administrator assured me Haley’s interpretation was incorrect. She called the SPED teacher up who explained that Bradley was waiting in the line to go home and for some unknown reason went into a meltdown and he had to be restrained. It took 3 adults to hold my son and he quickly resolved his tantrum once he was isolated in the classroom. She said the incident only lasted 5 minutes. I told them I wanted notification when he had to be restrained for multiple reasons. A. I want to know WHY you put your hands on my child and B. I need details to have a conversation with my son about what we could have done differently. I thought I had made myself clear, but apparently not… don’t stop reading yet… the gut wrenching part is coming…
So, I passed it off as Bradley’s instablility has made his behavior regress. As much as I hated it, I figured this was just part of having a special needs child. There were multiple times Bradley was restrained following that, but nothing quite so dramatic. Did the school inform me? No. Reports came from Haley and Bradley. It became such a usual occurance that I would just tell Bradley, “well, tomorrow is a new day, we will try again.”
Mid-December, Bradley came home from school saying his side was hurt. I knew an adult was aware of the injury because it was bandaged. I asked him what happened and he said they held him down and hurt him. I photographed both the bandaged injury and without – there were 3 scratches (consistent with finger nail marks) on his side. When Haley arrived home from school, I asked her if she knew what happened to Bradley. She said that they were “dragging Bradley out of the door” and he wouldn’t go. She said his pants got pulled down in the struggle. Apparently, they had a firedrill. As usual, I received nothing from the school, so I called to get more information. I was told everyone had left for the weekend and that it would be Monday before I could speak to someone. Fabulous. I was livid.
The following week, I was informed that the fire drill had set Bradley into a tantrum. He had to be forcibly removed from the building and that is the struggle Haley described. They had no explaination for the scratches. Once again, I made it VERY CLEAR that I was to be contacted if my son had to be restrained and that I wanted an injury report for any injuries.
Things were pretty quiet following Christmas break. At the end of March, Bradley’s teacher called the house. It was 1:25 in the afternoon. She said that Bradley had to be restrained and that he had an injury in the form of a scratch on his arm. She reported that he was calm and doing his work. While we were sad that our child had an injury at the hands of his caregivers, we were glad that FINALLY after 7mos of requesting, that the school was calling to inform us. When Bradley arrived home from school that afternoon, he was agitated. This is not abnormal for him when he has been at odds. At 4pm, I examined his scratch. It was high on his arm so in order to take a photo for my records, we had to take his shirt off. This is when I noticed the handprint on his back. Please note the time elapse… this was 2.5hrs AFTER we received the call that he was calm… and yet we still see this handprint on the child. My first reaction was to take him to the ER. However, Bradley was not willing to leave the house. Taking him into a vehicle in this frame of mind is a MAJOR safety issue. I decided to get an appointment with our pediatrician instead. Apparently this was a mistake. ***Always get immediate, official documentation***
Once my emotional response wore off, my rational self kicked in. Questions began arising in my mind as to if these marks were ‘typical’ of restraint. I mean, who wants to think that the people trusted to care for their loved one have hurt them? I have been told multiple times to seperate emotion from advocacy. I began tapping into my available sources. I sent some emails requesting opinions on these marks to Bradley’s SPED team from our last installation and to my parents.
I am not sure why I sent Bradley to school the next day. As I sit here typing this, I am not really sure I can answer that with anything other than I was trying to keep his life stable and make sure I was not falsely accusing anyone. He had a rough morning, but the school called me for ideas because the SPED teacher said that the ‘usual tactics’ were not working. I gave her some ideas for motivation (such as our upcoming trip to the amusement park) and she said she would call back if they needed me. I did recieve another call, but it was only to bring clothing because Bradley has a potty accident.
Bradley attended school the following day as well. It was that morning that I received a phone call from the SPED teacher from our old installation. She gave her professional opinion that these marks were not consistent or should be expected with restraint. We had our appointment scheduled for that afternoon already and so I immediately went and checked Bradley out of school.
Once we were in the car, I could again tell Bradley was agitated. I assumed it was because I interrupted his normal day. In order to calm him, I began talking to him about his day. This is when he said that a para had pinched him because he wasn’t doing his work. My husband grabbed the ipod and we recorded the rest of this converation. I pulled the vehicle over and examined Bradley’s tummy (where he was indicating that he was pinched). There were not any marks on him. He quickly got distracted and changed the subject.
We went to the appointment. The pediatrician examined my photo and said that the handprint was consistent with a slap. He measured and documented the scratch on my son’s arm. He felt strongly enough about our case, he personally walked us up to the social work department and explained our situation. We were seen as a walk-in. I was interviewed by a social worker who said that they would be opening a case.
At dinner that night, Haley, asked me what happened to Bradley at school that morning. I told her that I really didn’t know and that maybe she should ask him. Again, we grabbed the ipod and recorded the conversation. Haley said she could hear screaming during her history test. (remember the pinching story?) She asked Bradley what happened. He responded with “they tie my hands and squished my feet.” I was interested in what this meant… I asked Bradley to show us what this means. I had my son, Ryan, lie down on the floor. Bradley grabbed his arms and put them in an “x” across his chest and held at the wrists while sitting on the torso. It sounds horrible, but this seems logical to me… I asked Bradley to show me what ‘squish my feet’ means. He stood on Ryan’s ankles……..
We had a meeting with the school the next day. Attending was the principal, special ed director, and the school district social worker. We explained our concerns. They wanted to know what we needed to keep Bradley in the school. We requested cameras. Why are cameras not in these rooms anyway??? We have non-verbal kids at the mercy of adults. The school agreed to check into that, however, that is not going to be an immediate fix. It was their goal to keep Bradley’s schedule as normal as possible. We explained that we were NOT comfortable with Bradley being around the 5 adults that were in the room inwhich he was hurt. Until someone came forward and took responsibility or told who was responsible, in our minds, as parents, they were all equally guilty. We were told that they had a second self-contained classroom on this campus. Bradley had spent time in the room from time to time already and was comfortable in that room. It was across campus from his old room. We felt that he would be safe there and that was a solution with the least upset to Bradley’s daily life. We brought the ‘squishing of the feet’ issue to their attention. They said they couldn’t see that as being possible and blew it off. I figured I would save it for the investigator to figure out.
The next day, I put Bradley on his bus again. I had explained to him that he would be in the other classroom for awhile – I didn’t go into detail as to why – I didn’t want to give him a reason to have the hate in his heart that I had for these people. One of the things about my son, every day is new and he held no grudge. So to school he went. However, there was something that just didn’t set right with me in my gut. I told my husband I was going to the school to check on Bradley. I arrived at the new classroom and Bradley was there, alive, well, and breathing. However, to my surprise, the entire SPED team from the old classroom was also in the room with him – they were doing a joint activity. I withdrew Bradley from the school. I was not allowing him to be around the very people that hurt him. I had made that clear the prior day and the school failed to follow through with my request.
I went and spoke with the assistant superintendent. Bradley was present at this meeting and I had him demonstrate what ‘squishing my feet’ means. This person took it a little more seriously and reported it to the authorities. I went to the military police station and made my statement. I was given a criminal investigator who also took my statement. He informed me that he had not been informed of anything other than the issue with my son’s feet – somehow the doctor’s report was never filed through the authorities. The CID investigator said that they would schedule a forensics interview for Bradley and that these people could get kids to talk. We were set up with a military social worker. She interviewed myself and my husband (seperately) and declined to interview Bradley as she said that they would wait for forensics. She did, however, tell me that they would have a committee meeting to see if the case met criteria for further investigation. She said because my photographs were taken at home and not professionally, that they would not display them at the committee.
I felt like Bradley needed to talk to someone and give his side of the story ASAP. I contacted the Department of Social Services in the adjoining county to the post and I was told that because this was on post and an accusation against the school, they could do nothing for me. The military would take care of it. I called the investigator to see when we could get in for this interview and I was informed there would be no interview – there was no need. I questioned as to why. He said because the handprint on my son’s back didn’t bruise, it was not abuse and therefore nothing criminal had been done. As far as Bradley’s statement of ‘squish my feet’, the named person walked with a cane and couldn’t possibly have done it and he was therefore closing the case as far as he was concerned. Now, I am sorry, if this person was unable to stand unassissted, she would be wheelchair bound. A cane is merely for balance on occasion correct?? I was heartbroken. The social worker spoke with Bradley for 10ish minutes. I have no idea what was said. Considering he doesn’t really speak to people he doesn’t know, I doubt he said much if anything at all.
The committee meeting was held and it was concluded that the case didn’t meet criteria. They said that the handprint was unfounded. The person/people who hurt Bradley are still in that classroom with the remaining children.
I can’t get any help. Not one public service agency I have contacted is able to do anything on post. I attempted to contact an attorney, but since it is a federal case, they won’t touch it either. If there happens to be an attorney reading this that might want to represent Bradley, feel free to contact me. I am not looking for a freebie, I have money and can pay fees, I just need someone willing to stand up for us. I have went to every possible agency on this post trying to get assistance and have been given the run-around. I contacted our local Senator and was told they don’t have jurisdiction on a military installation. I was given contact information for our Congressional Representative, but have yet to get a return call.
All this being said, I have two things to ask of you. FIRST AND MOST IMPORTANT – LISTEN TO YOUR CHILDREN. question and question them again. Make sure all the pieces fit so that if they are being hurt at school (or anywhere else) you can put a stop to it. Secondly, please share Bradley’s story with your friends and family. I want the world to be aware that this DOES happen. Awareness might just be the key to keeping another child and family from going through the pain that Bradley has. If you have a story to share with me, feel free to contact me at a dedicated email I have set up for this purpose: firstname.lastname@example.org I will take all these stories with me to congress when I get an opportunity to meet with my Congressman.
As terrible as Bradley’s Story is, sadly he is not alone. Many readers of this blog have contacted or left comments and shared their own story (check through the comments on the bottom). I have been contacted by author, Richard Stripp Sr who wrote a book “Mommy I Wish I Could Tell You What They Did To Me In School Today” addressing this very matter. His unique point of view was from working within the school system with these amazing children and he is retelling the story of 10 children through the eyes of the child; what they would likely tell mommy if they only had the ability. He backs their ‘thoughts’ up with what he actually witnessed as a caregiver and the steps he took to correct it, only to be shunned by the very system put in place to protect these kids. Sound familiar? Well, this is the case with almost every family I have been contacted by – most of the abusers are STILL IN THE CLASSROOM. This book is an excellent read whether you are a parent, family, or caregiver. You can find out more about this book by following this link. http://www.mommyiwish.com
***If you really want to be proactive and make a difference, write your local congressman/woman and share Bradley’s story. (Folks from around the world… if you don’t have an American Congressional Representative, borrow mine. Bradley won’t mind and we will kindly share. http://www.house.gov/htbin/findrep?ZIP=28307 – her contact info is on this page.) Request that they put into legislation a law that would require ALL school districts to have cameras in their SPED classrooms. These kids need a voice to speak for them. A camera is unbiased and will be that voice….
Bradley and I have created a short youtube video to help spread the word. I am by no means trained in the art of videography, so ignore the fact I wasn’t staring directly into the camera – I was reading from cards the hubby was holding, but the point is made – his story is shared and I have told the world what they can do to help keep these kiddos safe. Please take time to view it – if for nothing else, because Bradley says he is a ‘movie star’ and it will make his day to know that the world has seen him. He was very interested in the fact that the video would reach people in other countries. http://youtu.be/roc-E4jK754
Thanks for reading this novel… *hugs* ~ Daisy
The link to the facebook group that we have created in support of Bradley and all children who don’t have a voice for themselves: http://www.facebook.com/#!/groups/348527931869401/ join, add your friends and family….