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Living with Autism and School Bullies | Families

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Living with Autism and School Bullies
Families, Schools
Living with Autism and School Bullies

Educators say bullying happens in virtually every school in every town.

Some surveys say as many as one child in 10 gets bullied.

One of the groups most at risk is special needs children.

In a two part series, 13WMAZ's Judy Le shows us how bullying affects children and how they're coping with it.

When school lets out at 2:45, the ride back home becomes story time and Veronica Edens can only hope for a happy ending.

"Did you have a good day at school today?" asked Veronica Edens.

"A little bit of no and a little bit yes. They were calling me ugly," says her son, Austin Hayes.

This story seems to be stuck on repeat. 

"Because I have autism," explains Austin.

Austin's also diagnosed with mental retardation with a mental age of six. That combination affects his development of social and communication skills, making it hard to connect to others. 

"I wish the kids would understand that every body's not normal. They might look like it, but they're not," says Veronica.

The 12-year-old faces another set of challenges -- surviving middle school as the new kid. 

"One time a boy said this, look at that ugly face people," he says.

Without understanding social cues, Austin isn't able to engage in playground warfare like "your momma" jokes. 

Veronica says, "The boy had said, 'your momma' is so ugly or whatever. Well Austin didn't know how to come back so he just repeated what the boy said."

Austin adds, "I was just doing my thing and a kid just walked up to me and punched me in the face."

"Because Austin couldn't come up with his own thing because it's not in his mind to come back," his mom says.

Austin has his own way of communicating trouble. It's something Veronica says he hasn't done since six years old.

"When he's spinning in the hallways now, kids are calling him gay and he's also now peeing himself because he is so traumatized by this -- I don't know how to explain it. It's horrible. As a momma, I don't know what to do," Veronica says.

Veronica says she's approached the school and went up the chain of command but the bullying doesn't stop. 

"They are trying, but I think they need to do more about bullying," she says.

"It makes me really not want to like that school anymore because most of the time the teachers are not watching what's happening," says Austin.

Veronica is looking for a solution before her son loses the battle. 

Judy contacted Peach Counties schools, and speaking on behalf of the superintendent, secretary Minnie Booker, said they were unaware of any those incidents and referred her to the student handbook on bullying policies. 

Thursday night, we'll tell you what the family is doing to see change.


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