Family: 5-year-old boy with autism punished at school for hugging another student


A Tennessee family claims a 5-year-old boy with autism was punished for giving his classmate a hug.

According to WTVC, East Ridge Elementary said the child overstepped his boundaries, but the boy’s mother insists he doesn’t know any better.Advertisement

Summery Putnam, Nathan’s mom, said she received a call from her son’s teacher about three weeks ago.

“I was sick to my stomach because first of all don’t you understand he’s a 5-year-old? He’s a child?”Putnam said. “The teacher called me and she said, ‘You need to have a talk with Nathan about boundaries.'”

Putnam said Nathan’s autism makes it difficult for him to understand social cues.

“If you don’t understand how autism works you’ll think he’s acting out or being defiant. But that’s not the situation,” she said.

Putnam said the teacher accused Nathan of sexual activities after she was told he hugged a child and kissed another child on the cheek.

Family members claim the school has filed a report with the state. Asked to confirm this, a spokesperson said the source of those complaints is confidential.

Debi Amick, Nathan’s grandmother, posted in a private Facebook post:

“What do you do when a 5 year child is being labeled a sexual predator and accused of sexual harassment by the school system? It was disclosed that it will go in his record for the rest of his life that he is a sex offender. This child is autistic, he comprehends and functions very different than your typical 5 year. What do you do? Who do you turn to for help when the school will not even listen to the child’s doctor when he explains the child’s difficulties in his comprehension of simple things such as boundaries. If anyone can offer advice or help please do. Please feel free to comment or pm me.”

Putnam said her son has now switched classrooms and teachers and is enrolled in special education services.

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