Mental health experts react to disturbing video of Hawaii boy with autism getting beaten on a school bus

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HONOLULU (KHON2) — Parents and mental health experts who watched KHON2’s story on Thursday about a boy with autism getting kicked and punched on the school bus describe it as heartbreaking.

Experts say more training is needed for workers who deal regularly with special needs students.

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The Department of Education (DOE) requires those who work in the classrooms to get some training in dealing with special needs students, but experts say those who work in the school buses fall under a different category.

The video from a Roberts Hawaii school bus was released by the boy’s family who is suing the company and the DOE.

“The story was absolutely heartbreaking, but also a reality of what parents and individuals with autism face when they are unable to communicate,” Kristen Koba-Burdt, a licensed behavioral analyst.

KHON2 spoke with several behavior experts who say those who transport students with autism are not getting the training that is needed.

“This incident definitely brings a need to light about making sure that all people supporting the student have that training needed,” said Koba-Burdt.

She points out that workers need to learn to be proactive in order to prevent a crisis from escalating, and it would be a worthwhile investment for any company that deals with special needs children.

“I think it’s really about an investment in safety. So generally, the training that we look at is 12 hours initially and six hours per year moving forward, so not a huge overly unrealistic amount,” she said.

Koba-Burdt says each student will have specific needs in dealing with a difficult situation, so it may seem overwhelming. That is why it’s important for the school staff and the student’s family to work with everyone involved.

“So if there are any concerning behaviors on the bus, that that’s communicated with the school team and the family. So everyone can work together to support the student’s needs,” said Koba-Burdt.

KHON2 has reached out to Roberts Hawaii and the DOE to find out exactly what training is given to workers on the school bus. Roberts says it cannot comment because the matter is in litigation and the DOE did not respond.

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