Guest Author - Bonnie Sayers
This incident has sparked national attention showing what transpired at a T-ball game on June 27, 2005 in Pennsylvania. I have received dozens of emails with links to this story in many newspapers across the country. I have not seen anything in the television media on this story, but I do hope it has been aired on some of the cable channels.
Some print media outlets have not published the victim and his families name, with others only relating the accuser's identity. I find this act to be horrendous. As mentioned in the The Tribune Review, "Starting pitcher Barry Zito has invited the boy and his family to be his guests at an Oakland A's game. Zito, who won the 2002 American League Cy Young Award, given to the league's best pitcher, is a member of the Positive Coaching Alliance's national advisory board. The organization provides training workshops for parents and coaches who run youth programs for all types of sports, according to its Web site". To learn more on this program, visit Positive Coaching Alliance. Please note I inadvertently mentioned that this coach was a member of the advisory board - this was in error and has been corrected.
A recap of the incident - Allegedly this coach offered to pay $25.00 to a regular kid on the team who is seven to hit the autistic eight year-old with a bat so he could not play in the game. This particular league requires a minimum of three innings be played by each player. According to the Associated Press - " Witnesses told police Downs didn't want the boy to play in the game because of his disablity. Police said the boy was hit in the head and in the groin with a baseball just before a game, and did not play."
According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "The boy was taken to an emergency room, where he was treated for swollen red marks on his ear and groin." The coach was arrested and released on bond. The hearing is set for July 28, 2005. The charges are "two counts of criminal solicitation to commit aggravated assault, and one count each of corruption of minors, criminal conspiracy and recklessly endangering another person."
As the parent to two children on the Autism Spectrum I am furious over this. You know that other children might taunt and bully your kids as they get older, but it never crossed my mind that such a thing could take place. All the stories are discussing the coach and the victim. But I have not heard how this might have traumatized the boy who was paid by the coach and probably pushed into doing this. I believe this boy is also a victim and will need some sort of counseling to deal with this incident.
It bothers me too that earlier this school year I was making calls to Boys and Girls Clubs trying to get my 10 year-old son interested in taking part in some sports. He is not interested in sports and would rather watch Discovery Channel or National Geographic Channel and learn about animals. He is mad at the people who are ruining nature and gets very emotional discussing it.
As a result of this T-ball encounter I plan on doing more research into Karate for children on the Autism Spectrum, because I feel this will benefit my son. I am going to take the cues from my children and no longer feel bad that they are not enjoying extra curricular activities with typical developing children - their peers. My children are happy doing their own thing, which is fine by me. I had already decided that he would go to a magnet high school, preferably the one onsite at the Los Angeles Zoo. Plus I am researching middle schools now as he gets ready to enter fourth grade to determine which venue to choose for middle school. My son does take social skills training once a week with other children on the Autism Spectrum.
Several years ago I had both my sons enrolled in a three month period of music therapy. Now I think they were too young to gain anything from this experience, but I did not continue with this therapy because the Regional Center changed the criteria for the sessions. Even though the music therapist came into my home once a week they now wanted all families to have neuro-typical developing children (NT) to be part of the sessions. I was to find some kids in the neighborhood. I felt this was wrong to require our children to have this therapy with other kids in their home they did not know.
The clinic where my children have feeding therapy and social skills has a camp session over the summer and during the winter and spring breaks. The cost is extremely high, in my opinion, and the deal breaker for me was when I read a flyer stating that each child attending camp can bring a friend or buddy that is NT for only $50 a week. The price might be a little more, but my beef is that the cost for a child with autism is several hundred dollars a week. I have been very vocal with my irritation at the pricing of the children based on whether they are normal or autistic.
If you are in search of any high ticketed item - for example a booster seat for your car, note that the products that mention "special needs" are much higher than just a regular booster seat that a child with autism can utilize. I recommend using either the Britax Husky or obtaining an E-Z-On-Vest. If you are a consumer of a Regional Center in the State of California you should be able to get the E-Z-On-Vest paid by RC. Vests are made for the school bus too.
Please also use caution if you have your child on the Autism Spectrum riding a school bus. I have never done this with my children, but I stand there and wait by the buses and observe drivers with the children and have read of many abuse instances through the media and online.
This t-ball incident is a wake up call for all parents to be aware of everyone who is in contact with our children on the Autism Spectrum. Please also consider Karate and purchase some of the safety videos at Safety 4 kids. They have a safety in the classroom educational series and can be reached at 1-866-safe-kids.
We also have books from the Abduction Prevention Library.
An incident took place this past April here in Southern California with the sentencing scheduled for July 28th for the the 13 year-old boy who hit a 15 year-old with a bat at a baseball game. The boy died at the Hospital with the younger teenager being convicted of second-degree manslaughter. The AP story.
***UPDATE*** July 28, 2005 - The Coach was ordered to stand trial today. The arraignment will take place on September 15, 2005. Post Gazette and the Pittsburgh Channel.com
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