On November 17, 2019 the autistic community hosted an international vigil for Max Benson, an autistic teenager who met a tragic end when he passed away from injuries endured while he was restrained for an hour in the prone position by his teachers. One year after the tragic incident, three staff at Guiding Hands School, Inc. have been charged with abuse related to the situation. The international vigil hosted in remembrance of Max Benson and to honor his life was hosted through social media platforms like Twitter using the tag #ShineOnMax, while a local vigil hosted by his family and the International Coalition Against Restraint And Seclusion (ICARS) was held at the El Dorado County District Attorney Office.
The brutality Max Benson was subjected to was only one case of many that have happened in the last couple of years alone. Abuse against children with autism was reported to have occurred at Forbuss Elementary when James Doran, a teacher meant to protect and mold young minds instead worked to break them. In Utah, a school bus driver was caught on camera brutally assaulting an autistic student. The cases of abuse towards children with autism are plentiful, more than I could bear to read in my lifetime. The high rates of abuse towards autistic children isn’t a new phenomenon or an epidemic solely found in schools. An autistic child was found locked in a wooden cage in a Jonesborough home, while an autistic woman was found locked away in a cage and forced to eat her mother’s ashes by five family members in Louisiana.
The amount of abuse that is reported against autistic children and adults is at an epidemic level, without even factoring in the amount that goes unreported. This is a crisis of serious concern that reflects very poorly on our society as a whole. As Mahatma Gandhi once said, “The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.”
We hear about gun violence and other serious issues that affect children, but we often don’t hear about the widespread abuse by those who are meant to protect children with disabilities. We don’t hear about the bullying that leads to suicide far too often for disabled people. This is something that must change, as no society, no country can call themselves “free” and “progressive” if they ignore the most vulnerable around them and sweep them under the rug without giving them a second thought.