My name is Stuart Chaifetz, and my son, Akian, is a ten-year old boy who has Autism. Akian has always been a sweet and non-violent child, and that is why it was so distressing when notes started coming home from his school, Horace Mann Elementary in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, saying that he was having violent outbursts, including him hitting his teacher and aide.
I could not understand why this was happening. I had never witnessed Akian hit anyone, nor could I dream of him lashing out as had been described to me. In October, I had a meeting with the IEP team (the teacher, school social worker, occupational therapist and speech teacher) to try to figure out what was going on. From that meeting, a behaviorist was called in who wrote a report. I sat down with the behaviorist on February 8, 2012 to review the findings.
It was pointless; even though the behaviorist was in the classroom a number of times, not only had he never witnessed any violent event, but when he tried to create a scenario that would cause one to happen, he failed.
Something was terribly wrong. I felt I was beginning to lose my son -- that these outbursts were changing his very nature. The teacher and school social worker tried to downplay it, to the point of almost mocking me for my concern. But I knew my son. I knew this wasn't him. And I knew I had to find out what was happening in his class that was having such a dramatic impact on him.
On the morning of Friday, February 17, 2012, I wired my son and sent him to school. That night, when I listened to the audio my life forever changed, for I heard my son being bullied by his teacher and aide.