Autistic 10-year-old arrested while mother tries to reason with officers
A Florida mother filmed the arrest of her 10-year-old son as school resource deputies handcuffed him and took him away.
The boy, who has autism, is accused of battery of a school employee in Okeechobee County because he kicked a teacher last November. The offense is a third-degree felony.
His mother Luanne Haygood said her son shouldn’t have been arrested for the incident.
“It was because of his autism that spurred this incident,” Haygood told WPTV. “And he was arrested for that.”
In the video, which Haygood recorded on her cell phone, her son John Benji Haygood is heard as officers place handcuffs on his wrists.
“I don’t want to be touched. Please don’t touch me,” the boy says in the video. “I don’t know what’s going on.”
Not wanting to be touched can be a symptom of autism, according to Autism Speaks.
Haygood said watching her son be cuffed and put in a law enforcement vehicle “broke her heart.” She said the 10-year-old boy then spent the night at a juvenile facility in Fort Pierce, Florida.
Although the incident took place last year, deputies said they couldn’t serve the arrest paperwork until last week.
Haygood said her son had prior behavioral issues because of his autism, but said that there needs to be a different way to deal with him.
“Unfortunately, instead of treating or accommodating we arrest because we don’t know what else to do,” Haygood said.
The sheriff’s office and prosecutors told WWLP that they weren’t aware the 10-year-old had autism, and the state’s attorney said it will be taken into consideration as they look at the case.