What do you do if you suspect something negative is going on with your child? For parents of autistic kids, who have difficulty communicating, this is a tough task.
The now-viral You Tube video posted by single dad Stuart Chaifetz, which chronicles how his 10-year-old autistic son Akian was verbally abused by his school teachers, shows one way. Chaifetz, surprised by reports that his normally-happy son was exhibiting violent behavior in school, wanted to figure out what was happening in the classroom. So he wired his son. In the resulting recording, which is horrifying to listen to, you can hear teachers calling his son names, speaking in harsh tones and talking about inappropriate things.
But even before Chaifetz bugged his child, he reacted to warning signs. Psycotherapist and mom-of-two Judi Willard offers tips on how to see those signs.
By Judi Willard
There are three important lessons for all parents to learn from Akian’s story.
1. When kids don’t feel right, they don’t act right.
It's so important for us as parents to pay attention to our kid’s behavior. If they are not acting the way they usually do then take notice and probe further, because this is how children tell us they are upset, depressed or anxious about something. Even the most verbally sophisticated child may not have the words to tell us what's really wrong. In this case Akian could not communicate to his father what was going on in school due to his autism.
2. If you think there may be a problem, trust your gut.
Trust your parental intuition just like Akian's dad did. You are the world's leading expert about your child! No one knows them as well as you do. So if you suspect something's going on, follow up.
3. Always stay engaged with your child.
It's so important to stay engaged with your children in every way. Stay involved with their education, know who their friends are, and support their interests. This allows you to be in tune with their emotional and educational needs, and lets your child know you care. They will be more likely to open up to you if they feel valued and cherished in this way.
Judi Willard is a mom of two, a certified psychotherapist, and the co-founder of SayPlease, makers of Lunchbox Love notes for kids with positive, uplifting messages. For more information, please visit www.SayPlease.com.
When Stuart Chaifetz, a father in Cherry Hill, N.J., was told his autistic son was acting uncharacteristically violent at school, he sent him to class wearing a hidden recording device that caught a teacher on tape bullying students. NBC's Jeff Rossen reports.