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People with autism see things in a different way. Nathan, a five-year-old who has autism, is trying to become more social. Sadly, his school has named him a predator.
Nathan’s guardian is Summery Putnam. She has grown to love the child whom she raises as her own.
Thanks to Summery, Nathan knows that when you hug someone, you are expressing your appreciation for them.
But this behavior is not tolerated at his school, East Ridge Elementary, where he has recently enrolled.
From day one, when the child was trying to make friends with the other kids, he would hug them to show that he was enjoying their company.
The other kids found this uncomfortable, but Nathan was confused. He’d been told that hugging was what you did when you wanted to show your appreciation of someone else.
Nathan, in his confusion, didn’t stop hugging other children, even when they started making fun of him.
Soon, Nathan’s teacher and other school staff members tried talking to the boy. They explained how he shouldn’t hug other kids in his class.
But Nathan didn’t stop this. He hugged a child the next day and kissed another on the cheek.
So the school, instead of contacting the mother, filed a criminal report with the State of Tennessee.
After this, the school finally called Nathan’s guardian. She had already explained that Nathan had autism, meaning that he had special needs, but they wouldn’t listen. Instead, they were condemning the child and his guardian for overstepping social boundaries.
Worried about how this might affect Nathan growing up, Summery told the boy that he could not hug children and that it was not allowed. But the boy just asked why this was, still not getting it.
Nathan’s grandmother, Debi Amick, heard about what had happened and was disgusted. She posted to Facebook. She couldn’t believe that the school was accusing a five-year-old of sexual harassment.
The grandmother later summed up the ridiculousness of Nathan being treated like a sexual predator with the following statement: “He shouldn’t be treated like this. The kid doesn’t even understand what sex is.”
A spokesperson for the school later said that the school took this action due to its policy of reporting these instances to the Department of Child Services.
Eventually, it appears that the situation was resolved.
The school acknowledged that the five-year-old Nathan was not a sex offender but instead had special needs. They re-enrolled him into a special education class, where he is thriving.
It’s good to see that common sense prevailed in the end. But the fact that Nathan, his guardian, and his grandmother had to go through so much stress is unacceptable.
Clearly, the five-year-old child was not trying to act in a predatory manner towards the other children in his class. He was just trying to get along with them.
Of course, the Department of Child Services needs to exist for a reason. It’s important to keep children from harm. However, Nathan’s incident should clearly have never been sent to them.
It’s sad to see that we live in a world where a five-year-old with autism can easily be at risk of being named a sexual predator.
Hopefully, the rest of Nathan’s education will be more sympathetic toward his unique needs.
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