Articles Posted in Autism

State%20Map%20Florida.jpgLeashing children in order to keep them from wandering away has sparked quite a debate among parents and the public in general. Take for instance a 28-year-old Jacksonville mother who is adamant about leashing her 2 1/2-year-old son who has a habit of wandering off in public places. She claims her decision is influenced by several kidnappings that happen a year as well as a recent Central Florida disappearance of an 11-year-old girl with Asperger’s syndrome. The girl spent four days in a Florida swamp after disappearing from her home.

This mother says she has received rude messages from other parents, however, she feels those consequences (rude comments and glares) are worth the price or effort of being cautious and safe. Also, this mother does not feel she is treating her child like an animal – a common argument from protesters of the practice.

Many child safety devices are available on the market: GPS devices, leashes, safety stickers, buttons and temporary tattoos embedded with general contact information worn on the child’s body. However, these devices should not be used as a supplement for supervision whether it be parental, teacher, or daycare supervision. Children should be taught and constantly reminded of basic safety measures when talking to or approached by strangers, walking to and from school, or wandering away.


In a recent opinion-editorial (op-ed) piece on, a Jacksonville, Florida father shared his feelings about the alternative therapies his family pursued for their Autistic child. The man’s Autistic son has been through several alternative therapies for Autism, including vitamin supplements, B12 injections, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, anti-fungals, and other experimental, or alternative, Autism therapies. He reported that his family spent four years and thousands of dollars on what he termed an “uncontrolled, flawed experiment.”

He believes that the Defeat Autism Now! group and doctors and therapists who subscribe to its methods should be approached with caution. Doctors who are the foremost experts in the field of Autism and represent some of the most esteemed medical institutions in the world frequently criticize the group for promoting therapies that have no scientific basis. The man reports that his family decided to cease all experimental therapies several months ago and his son is progressing without any regression. He encourages families to seek therapies for their Autistic children that are based on sound medical evidence.

You can find out more about this family’s path to help their autistic son at Guest column: Be wary of alternative therapies for autism.

firearm%20gun%20bb%20gun%20pellet%20gun.jpgA Christmas gift allegedly turned ugly last week, when a young child was given a toy pellet gun. Unfortunately, the boy (with his new present) shot his cousin who is Autistic. Christopher Fred Cady, age 39, then took away the gun from the child who shot his autistic cousin. According to the news story reported in The Miami Herald, Cady then shot the boy to show the boy how it felt. While the boy was definitely wrong for shooting a helpless and defenseless autistic child, Mr. Cady was not justified in shooting the offending child in the chest to show the offending child how it felt.

According to the St. Lucie, Florida Sheriff’s Department, Cady has been charged with cruelty toward a child without great harm. Read more about this incident at Man accused of using pellet gun on boy as a lesson.

It is not clear what Cady’s relationship was to the children in question, or if either of the children were seriously hurt by the pellet gun shots. What is clear is that the child was either too young or too irresponsible to be given any type of gun for a Christmas present. Even “toy” pellet guns can cause serious harm and children should not be allowed to play with them without strict adult supervision.

Police%20Sirens.jpgA German Shepherd K-9 unit escaped from Sarasota, Florida Police Officer Sean Gleason and attacked 12-year-old Angela Berk as she rode down the street on an electric scooter. The girl required 14 stitches in her right leg. She was unable to take pain medication because of the interaction with her medication for utism. The dog was allowed to continue working as a K-9 unit until he was retired for old age some time later.

The city offered the family a $15,000 settlement, but the child’s father, Ray Berk, declined the offer and filed a lawsuit asking for more money. Her lawyers noted that her developmental disability makes it more difficult for her to get past the trauma of the event.

Police officers acting as K-9 unit handlers have a responsibility to keep their dogs restrained and under control at all times. The officer was apparently negligent in his duty having left the door of his car open while the dog was unrestrained in the back seat.

education%20school%20day%20care%20black%20chalkboard%20with%20letters%20capital%20and%20small%20letters.jpgAt Morningside Elementary School in Port St. Lucie, Florkda, a teacher (Wendy Portillo) was fed up with disciplinary issues she had been having with 5-year-old Alex Barton, decided to let the other children in her class vote to decide if the child should be thrown out of class. Alex, who is in the process of being diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, was made to go to the front of the class and listen while each of his classmates was invited to say what they did not like about the boy. Alex lost the vote at 14-2 and was sent to the nurse’s office for the rest of the day.

The child’s mother, Melissa Barton, has filed a complaint, but the state attorney’s office has said that the incident did not meet the criteria for emotional child abuse, so no criminal charges will be filed. The Port St. Lucie, Florida Police have documented the claim but are no longer investigating it. Ms. Barton is considering legal action.

Asperger’s syndrome is a type of high-functioning autism. Children with Asperger’s often exhibit anti-social or disruptive behavior. Because of his disability, Alex has had disciplinary issues. Since the incident, Alex has refused to return to school.


A special vaccine court recently ruled against parents seeking compensation through the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. It was estimated that more than 5,000 claims were filed by parents and caregivers seeking compensation for damages related to Autism that were allegedly caused by Thimerosal-containing vaccine. The court concluded that the scientific evidence overwhelmingly did not support the claims of the parents on behalf of their children. Litigation on related issues continue. Nonetheless, the ruling in this case was a disappointment to families seeking compensation for injuries that, according to the families, their attorneys, and expert witnesses, were related to vaccines.

You can read more about this story at Court Rules that Vaccine is not Linked to Autism.

854122_back_to_school_1.jpgDo Florida children with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) qualify for Special Education under IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act)? Like many legal questions that I face as a child rights attorney every day, the answer is “it depends”. ADHD is not particularly listed as one of the conditions that could qualify a child / student for Special Education under IDEA. These conditions include the following:


Hearing impairment (which includes deaf children)


Having a deaf child in the Florida school system can be a wonderful mainstream experience for your child. Then again, it can be most frustrating if the school does not take measures to properly educate the deaf child and provide necessary resources to insure the success of your deaf child in the school system. I reviewed an extensive study and article on the subject of Deaf Children and IDEA (Individuals with Disability Education Act) that was linked at the American Society for Deaf Children Web Site. Parents of deaf children often times arm themselves with education and studies in order to promote and advocate for their child’s educational needs and best interests. Often times, parents need help from a Special Education Attorney ready, willing, and able to enforce of the rights of the deaf child under IDEA and related laws. Addressing the educational needs of a deaf child and other special needs children in a timely, professional and effective manner is paramount to the child’s educational as well as social growth and maturity. It is also the law.


I am often asked the question, “I need a Lawyer to represent my child’s educational needs before a School or School Board. What kind of Lawyer / Attorney do I need?” This is an excellent question. Frankly, Florida Personal Injury Lawyers are easy to find. Watch television or look in the yellow pages. Special Education lawyers / attorneys are not so easy to find. It is helpful to find a Special Education Lawyer in your geographical area. In North Florida, you would look for an attorney in Jacksonville, Orange Park, Jacksonville Beach, St. Augustine, Green Cove Springs, and the surrounding areas. Getting a school and / or school board to educate your child and provide the services required by law can be quite challenging. If necessary, the Special Education Lawyer can request an administrative hearing and get an order to require the school to comply with the applicable federal and state laws regarding your child’s educational needs.

Every school district has the legal duty to comply with IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act). Children that may qualify for special education under this federal law include children with mental retardation, hearing impairment (which includes deafness), visual impairment (which includes blindness), serious emotional disturbance, autism, traumatic brain injury (TBI), special learning disability, or other health impairment.

If you need a Special Education lawyer, contact Wood, Atter & Wolf, P.A., a laws firm “On Your Side – At Your Side.”


Children with disabilities and special needs in both public and private institutions in Florida and the rest of the United States should be educated in an environment that is least restrictive. Federal Law – United States Code – Title 20, Chapter 33, Subchapter II, Section 1412 provides the following:

“To the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities, including children in public or private institutions or other care facilities, are educated with children who are not disabled, and special classes, separate schooling, or other removal of children with disabilities from the regular educational environment occurs only when the nature or severity of the disability of a child is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily.”

Special Education Lawyers in Florida represent and advocate for the educational and best interests of children. Even though it can be challenging to accommodate the needs of a child with disabilities and education, the school, administration, and school board still have a legal duty to comply with Federal and State law. Often times, the school system falls short, ignores the needs of the child and family, and needs to be educated as to the law and educational resources and techniques that should be put in place for the child with Special Needs and disabilities.

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