The news right now is saturated with stories about Miramonte Elementary School and the lewd acts that were allegedly committed against children by more than one teacher at the school. These events are closely shadowed by the Penn State and the Catholic Church child abuse cases. A startling similarity with all these situations is that adults other than the perpetrators knew that these acts were occurring but did nothing.
There’s a culture of silence that allows situations like these to fester and grow where perpetrators do not fear being caught. Multiple children were affected for an extended period of time yet no one spoke up while the abuse was occurring. These children possessed spoken language, yet they remained silent. Now imagine how vulnerable children with language impairments, who cannot speak are.
It disturbs me immensely that these institutions are places that we, as a society, deem safe. We send children to school, to after-school programs, and churches – places that are meant to provide support and improvement in one’s life only to later learn that these are places where some individuals seek to blend in, in order to have easy access to their prey.
Parents with children on the autism spectrum place a great amount of trust in the providers who help instruct their children. They regularly introduce occupational, speech, and behavior therapists into their lives and homes but, can they really trust them to protect their child? How do we decide where we place our trust? Where does trust come from? Do the associations we make with certain words make us naïve? Does our perception of schools and in general, education, as a building block in the foundation of our society lead us to reflexively trust those who are employed by these centers of education?
To protect one’s family, conversations with our children need to take place in order to let them know that certain behaviors from people aren’t safe. How does a parent teach safety to a child that has learning impairments, and limited language skills? How do we make sure children who have difficulty communicating speak up when something inappropriate is happening to them?