Autistic Rochester Teen Booted from Massachusetts Program Following Outburst
ROCHESTER— A Rochester student and his family have hit a roadblock in a recent plan to continue his education in a Massachusetts program that officials and family had hoped would set him on track following a series of difficult circumstances.
Samantha Battis, of Rochester, has been advocating for her 13-year-old autistic son following a long series of trials that have derailed his individual education plan.
She said Ben "went to school Tuesday for the first time. It lasted two minutes. Then he had a meltdown."
Battis said the incident resulted in injuries to two people at the school and Ben's expulsion.
Ben attended Hopeful Journeys in Beverly, Massachusetts, a program he had attended in the past. His attendance was reinstated following an agreement reached with the school and Rochester school distritct in August.
According the the school's website, its mission "is to provide quality and individualized education to children with autism spectrum disorders and other developmental disabilities."
Battis said the school has "terminated the placement."
"It was difficult," she said. "What I struggle with is that there could have been certain steps put in place so this didn't happen."
Battis said she was in the room for most of the time he was having his outburst Tuesday, which she said resulted in injuries to two staff members after Ben acted out while being led to a classroom.
"One obtained a mark on his forehead over his eye and one received an eye injury," she said, though later she added that the eye injury was not caused by Ben. "I was in the room for 90 percent of the meltdown. Nothing of that nature occurred when I was in that room. I left for the last 10 minutes to get the directive of what to do next to leave the program. In my eyes there were some actions that could have happened to kind of avoid what had happened. "
Battis said she attributes the problems Tuesday to a lack of a "transition plan."
Battis said her son has suffered post traumatic stress from difficulties he has had in other school-related situations, including an alleged sexual assault on Ben that she did not report to police. She said circumstances that arise based on past incidents can be triggers for Ben and can bring "anxiety" that cause him to lash out.
"There was no road map in place," she said, and that the injuries she reported "could have been quantified more accurately."
Battis said Rochester has paid about $54,000 to the Beverly school, and that full tuition is $114,000. She said she was unaware that the city had paid that amount.
A call to the Rochester School District was not returned Friday morning.
Hopeful Journeys released a statement to NH1 but said they cannot comment on individual students.
"Hopeful Journeys has the highest licensure available to any special education program in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. We serve 80 students and our parents are pleased with the program that we offer, which is transformative for their children. While we would very much like to comment on the current situation, there are privacy laws which prevent us from doing so. However, there is another side to this story."
“I found out in Foster’s,” Battis said about the cost, referring to the newspaper that had published previous stories about the family. "I think parents should be privy to that information so we can advocate better. That's a lot of money. I didn't have any idea.
"If I had known that's what they paid out 3 weeks ago, that would have changed my perspective and willingness to participate in that program in Beverly."
She said she would have gone to her "plan B" and "started with tutoring."
"It's awful to watch a child go through that and staff members go through that," she said. "I have compasion for everyone."
Battis said the Rochester School District "has been very compassionate" and a meeting is scheduled for Thursday to discuss an emergency IEP plan.
"We're working as quickly as we can to have been be successful," she said.