Police conducting review on alleged abuse of young child with autism by therapist

Police conducting review on alleged abuse of young child with autism by therapist

Alleged abuse of autistic child blurred 2
The parents alleged that their young son, who has autism, was physically abused by the therapist in their home. (Photo: FACEBOOK/Safirah Oshin)

SINGAPORE: The Singapore Police Force on Friday (Jul 3) said it was aware of an online post accusing an applied behavioural analysis therapist of abusing a young child with autism, and that a review is being conducted.

The boy's mother had posted two videos on her Facebook page on Tuesday showing closed circuit television camera footage (CCTV) of the therapy session, alleging that her son was physically abused.

Police said the child’s father lodged a report on Mar 29, 2019 at about 11.30pm. 

The father told police that the six-year-old had been abused by a 28-year-old female therapist earlier that day during a session at their home.

Medical examination of the boy at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital was carried out on the same day and no physical injuries were found.

The police said they conducted investigations, including reviewing the CCTV video that captured the entire 90-minute therapy session, and interviewed the therapist and other relevant individuals.

After concluding the investigations, the police, in consultation with the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC), issued a written advisory to the therapist.

“This outcome took into consideration the context of the therapist’s actions, and the interactions and dynamics between the boy and the therapist during the entire 90-minute session, which the nine-minute extract of the CCTV footage that had been shared online did not fully reflect.

“The outcome of the investigations was communicated to the family in August 2019. The police understand that the family had consulted lawyers and had received legal advice on the matter,” the police said in a statement.

After receiving further representations from the family in January this year, the police said they conducted more interviews and sought further guidance from AGC.

“This was made known to the family at that time, and the police have been in contact with the boy’s family. The police are currently still in the midst of the review,” they added.

Clips from the video were also shared on Instagram, with one post gathering more than 230,000 views. 

In response, Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee said in a Facebook post that he "was alarmed" by what he saw and had "asked that this matter be looked into thoroughly".

The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) said in a Facebook post on Friday that it was first alerted to the incident in April last year and that the incident did not involve MSF-funded Early Intervention (EI) services.

"We looked into the matter and found that the therapist’s employment had been terminated," MSF said.

The centre that had employed the therapist also informed MSF of the precautionary measures it had put in place.

The ministry said that when it was alerted, police investigations were already under way and were completed later in 2019. MSF added it did not receive further feedback on the incident until the video began circulating online a few days ago. 

"We understand from Singapore Police Force that they had been reviewing the case since receiving further representations from the family in January 2020," the ministry said.

MSF said it takes all reports of abuse seriously and had reached out to the family on the same night it was alerted to the video, to "establish the facts" and offer support.

The ministry also checked on the 31 EI centres that MSF provides funding to and has direct oversight of, and confirmed that the therapist is not currently in their employment.

"MSF is committed to keeping our children safe," said the ministry.

"Over the years, we have tightened requirements on child-safe practices and staff conduct for EI centres registered with MSF as Baby Bonus Approved Institutions. 

"We will look into further tightening the requirements and ensure compliance related to child safety and staff code of conduct in these centres," the ministry added.

Source: CNA/zl(ta)

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