Boy with Asperger's, 9, handcuffed by police at daycare

I heard an interview on CBC at lunch today about this case. A Toronto child with Asperger's, ADHD and Oppositional Defiant Disorder had a melt-down at a daycare, and was placed in a separate room where he barricaded himself and began throwing furniture and paint around. The boy later said he was being bullied and called names in the lunchroom. The police were called, broke open the door and asked the boy to lie down, which he did. Even though he was now lying on the ground, the boy was handcuffed.

I just saw the Canadian Press news story in the Globe on the subject. The story, which seemed to be derived from a CityTV report, is seriously lacking in details, some of which come to light in this Globe editorial and this story in the Windsor Star: Toronto Police handcuffed mentally-challenged boy after 'uncontrollable' behaviour.

The news story in the Globe produced over 1,000 comments, and I was struck by the utter lack of knowledge about Asperger's and Oppositional Defiant Disorder (only the former was mentioned in this story). Asperger's is a neurological condition and ODD is a psychiatric disorder.

This was not a case of a 'bad' kid gone 'berserk,' or a discipline issue, or of parents who can't control their kids, as many commenters suggested.

"I'm wondering why a child with Aspergers and other "disorders" is even in a daycare in the first place?" wrote one. "Maybe the parents should have someone look after him in their home. Oh, wait, that would cost more money."

It's lucky he wasn't tasered, pepper-sprayed, slammed to the wall, beaten up or piled on top of by police, said others. "Being a child with 'special needs' doesn't release him from any responsibility," wrote one. "Don't allow special-needs children into classrooms," said another.

I do not know a lot about Asperger's or ODD.

I do know lovely children who have these disorders and the struggle their parents face to try to get them the help and supports they need and to convince people that their children do indeed have disabilities. I know how challenging it is for parents to educate daycare workers or school staff on the techniques that help prevent and diffuse their children's behaviour. There are often insufficient staff, staff who aren't properly trained, or staff who don't follow through with known calming techniques because they don't believe the child has a disability in the first place.

Then I read this Windsor Star report of the event and my heart just about broke when I got to the last paragraph.

Toronto police Const. Victor Kwong said the boy, who in addition to Asperger syndrome, is also diagnosed with ADHD and Oppositional Defiant Disorder, became angry in the daycare's lunchroom when other children were bullying him and calling him names.

"What teachers say is that he became uncontrollable," said Kwong.

A daycare worker, fearing for the boy's safety and that of the other children, called police after the boy barricaded himself in an empty classroom and started throwing around chairs, tables and paint.

Kwong said when officers arrived on the scene, they asked the boy to lay down on the floor on his stomach, and put him in handcuffs.

He said the boy was only in handcuffs for about five minutes, after which he calmed down and was chatting with police about his hobbies. "When he left, he hugged the officers and the nurse," said Kwong who stood by the officers' decision to cuff the boy. "This worked. He listened," said Kwong.