Author Topic: Parents Set Up Hidden Camera to Monitor Autistic Son’s Therapy Sessions – What They Saw Happening in Real-Time Is Gut-Wrenching  (Read 310 times)

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Offline Rapunzel

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Parents Set Up Hidden Camera to Monitor Autistic Son’s Therapy Sessions – What They Saw Happening in Real-Time Is Gut-Wrenching
Jan. 2, 2014 6:00pm Liz Klimas

When Stephanie Lowe and her husband didn’t see any improvements in their autistic toddler after he started therapy, they installed a hidden video camera to record just what was included in the sessions meant to help their son.

What the Waterford, Wisc., parents saw happening in real-time in their basement was shocking.

The man, identified as 27-year-old Stephen Jacobs, was recorded pulling the child by his arm, hitting him with pillows, head-butting him and throwing him the couch. All the while, 3-year-old Caeden Lowe just cried.

On the boy’s second session, the parents planted a web cam. (Image source: WISN-TV)
austic boy abused

The video footage showed the autistic boy allegedly being abused by therapist Stephen Jacobs. (Image source: WISN-TV)

Image source: WISN-TV

“It’s about my son. He deserves the therapy he was promised. And he deserves more than they gave him. And this could be happening anywhere,” a distraught Stephanie Lowe told WISN-TV.

“If I hadn’t put a video camera downstairs, we would have never known,” she said.

Watch this footage courtesy of WISN, which allegedly shows Jacobs physically abusing the child:

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Jacobs faces felony charges for his actions. According to police, Jacobs said he was studying for a test and doesn’t remember abusing the child.

Autism Intervention Milwaukee, which employs Jacobs, told WISN it is evaluating its other therapists in light of this incident.
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Offline mountaineer

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A similar incident happened near us.
UPDATE: Jefferson County Woman Accused of Abusing Disabled Students Found Guilty on Three Counts
Posted: Nov 06, 2013 1:43 PM EST
Updated: Nov 16, 2013 3:50 PM EST

UPDATE:  A woman accused of physically and verbally abusing developmentally disabled children at the School of Bright Promise in Steubenville was found guilty on three counts of endangering children.

Debra Copeland was in court as the verdict was handed down on Wednesday afternoon.


The trial of a School of Bright Promise employee accused of physically and verbally abusing developmentally disabled children entered its second day on Thursday.

Debra Copeland is facing two felony counts of endangering children and one misdemeanor count of endangering children.

According to the prosecution, Copeland was a physical therapist at the School of Bright Promise in Steubenville for 11 years. On January 9, 11 and 15 of 2013, she allegedly pinched and slapped students. The incidents were recorded by a co-worker.

The prosecution alleged that the students also received repeated administering of unwarranted disciplinary measures, impairing the children's development and instilling fear.

The defense claimed that while Copeland used harsh tones and methods that were not always easy to watch, the methods worked. The defense stated this "rough therapy" was needed as brain damaged children respond differently than those without the condition. Copeland had been working with the children for 4 years.

During Thursday's proceedings, the state called its final two witnesses, both of whom were doctors for the alleged victims in the case. The state then rested its case at 9:40 a.m.

The defense opened its case on Thursday by calling to the stand a physical therapist from Columbus who is also an instructor at Ohio State and has a background in working with handicapped and developmentally disabled children.

The witness told the court he watched the tape about 50 times and considered the stern tone used by Copeland as treatment. He stated, "physical therapists are coaches and teachers and our specialty across the board is movement." He continued by stating that "a slap on the behind can actually have therapeutic affects."

After a lunch break, the defense called its second witness, another physical therapist, who stated that she would not use the approach used by Copeland, but "children with that problem might need a stronger physical prompt." She stated that after viewing the video, she did not hear or see a child's head hit the floor, nor did she see any harm being done to children. She continued by stating that she personally never pinched, slap, hit anyone during physical therapy and considers these things inappropriate practice during physical therapy. However, she stated, "What I saw would not be the best therapeutic practice in our profession."

On Wednesday, the first witness called by the state was a former intern at Bright Promise from November to late January. She said that Copeland's behavior caused her to record three physical therapy sessions between Copeland and the students. She said she recorded the videos because Copeland "had been reported before and gotten away with it." Before recording video, she said she saw Copeland "pinning a child down on all fours."

The witness then testified that she contacted Prosecutor Jane Hanlin about the videos, who told her to contact detective Erik Dervis.

Emotions ran high on Wednesday as people inside the courtroom and the witness on the stand began crying while watching first video of the alleged abuse.

During cross-examination, the defense argued that she was not trained in physical therapy, and had different goals than that of a physical therapist.

The second witness called by the prosecution was Michael Mehalik, superintendent of the developmental disabilities board at the School of Bright Promise.

The witness said when he received a call from Detective Dervis about the allegations, he was stunned as he considered Copeland a close friend. He said watched 4-5 minutes of the video and told officers "he had seen enough," including the slapping of wrists and behind, pinching, and picking up the child off the floor and verbal abuse. He said he then placed Copeland on immediate administrative leave.

He said the school has a no-touch policy and will not physically intervene with a child who is misbehaving unless there is a threat. He said the school's policy is to back off give the students space and move things out of the way so they don't injure themselves or others.

He scheduled two disciplinary conference for Copeland which she didn't attend. She was then terminated on December 5, and had her license suspended by Ohio Physical Therapist Board  as her actions were a violation of human rights policy of the board and school.

During cross-examination, the defense claimed Mehalik was not trained in physical therapy or methods, and had only a general knowledge of the sessions, as he had never sat in on a physical therapist session before. The defense claimed that therapists must touch children during physical therapy sessions.

The state called one more witness to the stand before noon. The school's principal, Rachael Bodo, testified that she was only able to watch five minutes of the video because "it wasn't right." Bodo said that neither child are mentally able of misbehaving, so the actions Copeland took were unwarranted.

Life is too short to leave the key to your happiness in someone else's pocket.

Offline LambChop

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What kind of employment checks does the agency do?  I think a background check doesn't begin to give details on whether someone is qualified to work with autistic children or not.  Parents go to these agencies trusting they've done their job and hire qualified counselors.

The agency should be held responsible some how also... I think anyways.

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