A video showing Bedford County school bus personnel striking an autistic child is influencing legislators to require local school personnel prove they know how to deal with autistic behavior.
Del. James Massie, R-Richmond, said he helped make sure legislators had access to the video, which showed an 11-year-old boy being struck with a flyswatter and fists by a special-needs adult aide and a bus driver. Both were convicted of misdemeanor assault.
“I think the video was a dramatic, extreme instance of what happens when people aren’t trained to recognize what triggers autistic behavior and how to deal with it,” Massie said.
Lesser levels of abuse occur, down to the point where untrained people “just throw up their hands and say ‘I don’t know how to deal with this child,’” he said.
Massie’s HB 325 is moving forward in the General Assembly for the first time in the three years he’s carried a version of the bill. It received unanimous approval Friday in the House Appropriations Committee, which decided the state can afford to pass the bill.
The measure requires teachers licensed in special education demonstrate competency in student behavior management when they are working with students with autism-spectrum disorders.
Massie said two factors, in addition to the video, contributed to the bill’s success so far.
One factor is an increased awareness of autism among legislators as a result of a bill Del. Tag Greason, R-Loudoun County, sponsored last year to provide insurance coverage for treatment of autistic children.
Massie said a second factor was a $500,000 federal grant that legislators steered to an autism study center at Virginia Commonwealth University.