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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Autism and Abuse

Police are looking for additional victims after a man employed as an in-home caregiver was arrested for allegedly molesting an autistic child.

Jeremy Shawn Stockton is charged with multiple counts of lewd acts against a child under the age of 14.

Stockton was arrested after the boy came forward with details of the alleged molestation.

The 29-year-old is an employee of Wellspring, a local agency that specializes in behavioral intervention for young children with autism.

Since May 2008, Stockton has worked for Wellspring as an in-home caregiver for developmentally disabled children, according to the LAPD.

He has also been a special education trainee at Ulysses S. Grant High School in Van Nuys.

Although not a YMCA employee, in 2009, he worked among developmentally disabled children at the YMCA facility in La Canada.

In Florida, The Sun-Sentinel reports:
The boy was autistic, severely limited in his ability to speak and interact.

The teacher's aide assigned to him said she was in fear one day when he began acting aggressively, a behavior not uncommon in children with autism.

But the boy's parents say the aide was the aggressive one, picking up a chair, acting like a lion tamer as the boy cowered in fear. Finally, the parents say, the aide threw the chair at the boy, striking him in the legs.

The case highlights the challenges faced by those who care for some of the most vulnerable students in public schools. An attorney for then-teacher's aide Talia Sabo said she was acting in self-defense against the teenager, who was a student at Monarch High School in Coconut Creek at the time of the May 2008 incident.

"He was being very aggressive," said the lawyer, Maidenly Macaluso. She said the chair fell out of Sabo's hand and was not thrown.

More than 3,000 children diagnosed with some form of autism are enrolled in Broward's public schools. In Palm Beach, the figure is 1,850. Those who are high-functioning display symptoms that might go unnoticed by a casual observer. Low-functioning students struggle with basic communication and socialization skills.
The lawsuit was settled last year, with the school district agreeing to pay $25,000. But a guardian ad-litem for the boy determined in December that the settlement, which included attorney's fees, was not in the boy's best interest.

"I think $25,000 is far too low" to compensate the boy for what he allegedly suffered, said the guardian, Matthew Scott, in a federal court filing.

The case was reopened and is pending in federal court. School officials declined to discuss an open case.