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Advocates call for change following assault on teen with autism

A screen capture from a Snapchat video shows a 16-year-old autistic teen on his knees as he is punched and kicked by a group of other teens at the Devonshire Mall in Windsor on March 9, 2024. (Snapchat - image credit)
A screen capture from a Snapchat video shows a 16-year-old autistic teen on his knees as he is punched and kicked by a group of other teens at the Devonshire Mall in Windsor on March 9, 2024. (Snapchat - image credit)

In wake of a group assault on an autistic teen at a bus stop in Windsor, advocates say work needs to be done to prevent incidents like this from happening.

Rita Miceli, an educator with St. Clair College's autism and behavioural science program, said she was heartbroken to learn of the incident.

"Clearly, children need more education and this is telling us that. This example is a prime example of, we need to to do more. More needs to be done."

An arrest has been made in relation to the attack, according to Windsor police.

in a media release on Wednesday, police said the assault occurred on the night of March 9, just before 8 p.m., while the teen was waiting for a bus at the mall in the 3100 block of Howard Avenue.

Investigators are encouraging any members of the public with video evidence of the incident to contact police.

Autism advocate and educator Rita Miceli reacts to the group beating of an autistic teen at Windsor's Devonshire Mall.
Autism advocate and educator Rita Miceli reacts to the group beating of an autistic teen at Windsor's Devonshire Mall.

Autism advocate and educator Rita Miceli reacts to the group beating of an autistic teen at Windsor's Devonshire Mall. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

A 14-year-old youth was taken into custody, and investigators are continuing to try to identify others involved in the assault.

As of Wednesday afternoon, there's been no word on charges.

A Snapchat video has circulated of the incident. Windsor police described the 16-year-old male as being "confronted, chased, and attacked by a large group of teenagers."

The assailants "punched and kicked the victim before fleeing the scene," police said.

The mother of the 16-year-old spoke with CBC News earlier this week. CBC News is not publishing her name at her request to protect her son's identity.

The woman said the group of teens approached her son demanding to fight with him.

The attack left the woman's son with a broken arm, and he will have a permanent scar on his face, she said.

"Every time he looks in the mirror, he's going to be reminded of this," she said.

The woman said her son is now resting and recovering, but isn't able to be alone or take the bus alone.

Jane McLaren of Autism Ontario reacts to the group beating of an autistic teen at Windsor's Devonshire Mall.
Jane McLaren of Autism Ontario reacts to the group beating of an autistic teen at Windsor's Devonshire Mall.

Jane McLaren of Autism Ontario reacts to the group beating of an autistic teen at Windsor's Devonshire Mall. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

Miceli said she applauds the mother for allowing her son to take a bus independently.

"We don't know how much work it took to get to that. Those of who deal with [autistic individuals] on a daily basis can understand and relate," Miceli said.

"All I keep thinking about is. how much more it's now going to take to get him to where he was... This is like pushing him backwards."

The non-profit advocacy organization Autism Ontario condemned the Windsor incident, and noted that people with disabilities are twice as likely to become victims of violent crime, compared to people without disabilities.

Jane McLaren, a transition specialist with Autism Ontario, said society must strive to reach a point where those with autism "can go out into the community... and not be at risk."

"That shouldn't factor into this at all — and yet, way too often, it does. Parents are absolutely worried and scared that their child might be victimized."