So imagine how alarming it is for those parents to hear about the case of an autistic boy at Chopticon High School in Southern Maryland who was allegedly bullied and assaulted by two teenage girls. Among the alleged incidents recorded on a cellphone: a knife being held to the 16-year-old’s throat, his repeated falls through an icy pond after he was encouraged to fetch a basketball and his efforts to have sex with his family’s dog at the behest of two girls he considers his friends. In fact, the boy told The Washington Post’s Ian Shapira that he forgives the girls, wants the charges dropped and doesn’t think they meant any harm.
One of the girls, who is 15, pleaded guilty to second-degree assault and was sentencedThursday to a juvenile lockdown facility for a maximum of six years. The other girl, 17-year-old Lauren A. Bush, has been charged as an adult with first-degree assault, child-pornography solicitation and false imprisonment and, if convicted, faces up to 80 years in prison.
Many kids with autism have a hard time in social situations, and they are very trusting. They are the ideal targets for bullies, something that a 2012 study published in the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine showed when half the kids researchers watched were harassed. Autistic children are four times as likely be to targeted as kids without developmental disabilities.
Leigh Ann Davis has studied this since 1994 and has seen some horrific cases of bullying and physical, sexual and emotional abuse of kids with disabilities. But she’s relieved to see parents are starting to come to her to help deal with bullies and assert their children’s rights.
“It can become a hate crime issue when people with disabilities are treated differently, are less valued and are taken advantage of,” Davis said.