Tara Heidinger’s campaign to put cameras into special needs classrooms is gaining momentum. Recently her crusade, one which has the support of many parents of special needs children, was featured on ABC. I’m really grateful to Tara for taking time to talk to me about a cause I fully endorse.
Tell us about yourself and your gorgeous little Corey.
I am a mother of two children from Lakewood Ohio. Corey was my first child. He was diagnosed with moderate Autism at the age of 2 1/2. He was already receiving physical, occupational, and speech therapy sine the age of 12 months. He is now 8 years old, in the 3rd grade. And I have a daughter Emily, 3 years old. So far no diagnosis.
You are campaigning to have cameras put in special needs classrooms. What inspired you to launch this campaign?
My son, Corey, is the one who inspired me to do this. Corey was possibly abused by his teachers aide. Corey came off the bus all upset. His head was down, “He said” Teacher mean to me today.” Did not think anything of it because teachers can come off mean to get points across. Later that day, Another boy in his class, (12 year old, with mild Autism) told me that the teachers aide was really mean to Corey. She had punched his arm, grabbed his arm, yanked his arm face to face with her as she screamed in his face “Stop Crying Now!” Corey agreed with this story. Corey speaks but has troubles in communication and is difficult to understand at times.
We went to the school and spoke to the principal. She acted as if she did not believe this story. She told me she would investigate and call me later. Well, I got a phone call from principal and teacher. They said they spoke to teachers aide. She denied the allegations, and they said they spoke to the boys and they said they did not know why they said it had happened. They said the boys made up the story maybe due to Autism. I asked if there were any cameras so I can see what had actually happened since Corey has trouble communicating. He had bruise on arm that fit with the boys’ story, so we took pictures to the police and made a report. That night I shared with my group, Dealing With Autism, about what may have happened and some in there said similar stuff had happened to their child while at school too. I said they really need cameras. So came up with a plan to start a page called Cameras In Special Needs Classrooms.
What made you realise that Corey’s experience wasn’t an isolated incident?
I was unsure what to believe. The bruise on Corey’s arm made me believe the boys’ story. As I made this page I see that many, many schools cover up a lot. I will never know the real truth but I can help make a change that our children can have proof too. Plus proof for staff when staff’s head is turned away. Some children can’t speak so some children can not tell anyone what is happening to them, even to their teacher when his or head is turned. Cameras can also help staff learn about each child better. Look on what they are doing right before a meltdown. Cameras would be great learning tool for these children and classrooms.
What, precisely, are you calling for to protect special needs children at school?
I want Audio and Video cameras in all special needs classrooms for safety. I do not want this on the internet for all to see. I want security watching in case cameras are tampered with. The cameras may feel uncomfortable at first but, eventually you will forget they are even there. Just like a grocery store. I don’t notice the cameras because I am not committing a crime, so I don’t worry about them. I shop. I do what I am there to do and leave. There are cameras ALL over the place. We don’t know because we are not looking for them.
These children’s lives are fragile, some have had many surgeries and and have been shaken causing in death. There was one Child that was beaten by five staff members resulting in head trauma. He still is not the same today, a year later. There are stories after stories coming in on special needs children being abused by staff or unexplained marks and bruises. Our children cannot come home and tell us if something were to occur. Cameras would be there for safety only. Not for publicity. Cameras will help keep good staff in and bad staff out. If you are a staff member and doing nothing wrong, keep your head up and continue. You will have nothing to worry about. For the one who are not trained and does not have enough patience working around special needs children, you will be caught and will never be able to work around children again. I am continuously seeing how abusive staff members are getting away with this. Sad. Some paid leave and some 10 suspension. Abuse of any child should be punishable with jail time. I hope teachers understand it is for their good too, unless they really hiding something. I tape my son occasionally Helps me watch and learn more about him. I love it!
How can we support Cameras in Special Needs Classrooms?
Please come visit Cameras In Special Needs Classrooms on Facebook. Come “Like ” our page. If you have any experiences as a teacher, Aide, Child or Parent. Please come share your story. I also have a petition for the President Of the United States. Please visit this change.org petition and sign. You can say you helped make this happen. Lets give the Special Needs Children A Voice! Lets Protect The Good Staff! Lets Come Together To Make A Change!
Finally, how is Corey doing now?
Corey is doing good now. He is so happy. He does have same class with same staff. I pray nothing happens. He really does love school. That teachers aide maybe had bad day or maybe was telling truth. I will never know. I just want is best for our children with troubles in communication.
For more on this please see Akian’s Story