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Part Two | Living with Autism and School Bullies | Families

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Part Two | Living with Autism and School Bullies

Wednesday we introduced you to Austin Hayes. 

He's Autistic and navigating life as a target of school bullies. 

"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," says mother Veronica Edens.

Part One | Living with Autism and School Bullies

This behavior is a symptom of Autism Spectrum Disorder.

"Typically, there's deficits in social skills, being able to interact with others," says Bibb County lead psychologist Steve Corkery.

Bibb's interventionist, Amber Vining, adds it's a deficit in "language skills and we're talking about verbal and nonverbal."

According to a study from the Kennedy Krieger Institute, children with autism are three times more likely to be bullied than their siblings.

And in school, children ages 6 to 15 face classmates who sometimes intentionally push them into a meltdown.  For Austin, throwing fists and lunch trays are a form of defense.

"The kids were. They were saying F you and they were calling me the B word and the A word," says Austin.

"With him, I know he knows bullying. I know he knows what they are doing, but I don't know how bad it affects him," his mother says.

It's a real scare for Veronica to hear her son's war stories. So she took her son out of regular classes and put him into special education and addressed the school. 

"I said what are you going to do about that? And they said the boys are already getting into trouble, the steps are being handled," she says. 

The school district says they were unaware of any incidents. According to the Peach County handbook, bullies are punished based on violation and are given three chances before assigned to a Learning Support Academy.

For Austin, taunts escalated to black eyes, and in Peach County, a physical offense means a two day suspension. 

"I thought I had prepared him for the ups and downs but maybe I didn't. Maybe I didn't show him that there are mean people in this world and you just have to ignore them," says Veronica.

She says the school's efforts aren't enough. Austin's struggle is his family's struggle so together they're moving forward.

Veronica is looking into pulling her son out of Peach County Schools and placing him in a one with a zero tolerance policy like Bibb's.


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