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Why parents are not confident of therapy centres for autistic children-cum-sexual abuse survivors

Recently, a 10-year-old boy with autism, who is a student at a government school in the capital city, was sexually harassed by a school employee.

Published: 23rd August 2019 10:27 PM  |   Last Updated: 23rd August 2019 10:27 PM   |  A+A-

Child Sexual Abuse

For representational purposes

By Express News Service

The Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act and the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act protect children with autism from heinous offences. But most parents are helpless when it comes to preventing such incidents. They are usually not allowed inside autism therapy centres when the child goes through a one-on-one session with the therapist. They are also clueless about what happens behind the closed doors of these centres.  

“Parents are sometimes helpless on how to assist their autistic children, especially when they find that their children go through abuse in these therapy centres and schools which they thought were good. Many therapy centres or schools are not parent-inclusive and children are usually abused behind closed doors,” says Seema Lal, a psychologist and special educator who heads an advocacy group Together We Can (TWC).

TWC had filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in last May before the High Court of Kerala giving guidelines prescribing minimum standards for the registration of autism therapy centres in the state. These guidelines included allowing the physical presence of parents inside the therapy room. If clinically not possible, sessions should be visible to parents through an observation window, CCTV or any other electronic mode. This was approved by the court and will be implemented from January 2020.

Recently, a 10-year-old boy with autism, who is a student at a government school in the city, was sexually harassed by a school employee. The incident came to light when the child who is non-verbal refused to go to school and the mother discussed the matter with his therapist who, in turn, revealed the child had been sexually harassed. 

Hailing from Kannur, the family had moved to Thiruvananthapuram so that they can ensure the best schooling for their child. “I had admitted my child in Class II. During the half term of the year, the child started showing signs of violent behaviour and difficulty in interacting with men. Although I had filed a complaint one month ago, the investigation is underway now. The school authorities are also protecting the accused,” says the boy’s mother.

Seema, who has been helping the family, says that although the case has been taken up with the State Child Rights Commission, the accused has not yet been arrested and is absconding. The family has also been threatened by the school authorities to withdraw the case. “I was never allowed inside the school and observe how my child responded to the classes as he was non-verbal. Some other parents have also shared their children’s ordeal but they fear to speak out,” says the boy’s mother.

Even after HC approval, such incidents still continue. Parents are worried that many children with autism can still be abused until the strict implementation of the guidelines next year. “In autism schools and therapy centres, such practices are still continuing. We will take strict action against those found sexually abusing and harassing the children,” says a member of the child rights commission

Guidelines

Together We Can had filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) before the High Court of Kerala in May last year giving guidelines prescribing minimum standards for the registration of autism therapy centres in the state. These guidelines included allowing the physical presence of parents inside the therapy room.

More from Kerala.

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