Mumbai: Police to act against 'doctor' who ill-treated autistic child

The occupational therapist allegedly manhandled an autistic child in 2013; Child Rights Commission stated that the medical professional is not competent to treat those with special needs in the first place

Almost two years after parents of an 11-year-old autistic child complained to the Child Rights Commission about their son being “manhandled” by an occupational therapist at a city-based therapy centre, the commission has finally directed the police to take necessary action against the doctor. The child’s parents, however, want the commission to shut down the therapy centre to avoid such instances in the future.

The Child
The child in question had been attending therapy sessions at the centre since five years. Representation pic

The order passed by the Maharashtra State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (MSCPCR) states: “From the information submitted in court by the parents as well as the therapy centre and the doctor involved, it is clear that this said doctor is not competent to conduct treatment on autism... she used coercive measures on the child… it cannot be ruled out that this doctor under the garb of her certificates is fooling the public.” The only recommendation given by the commission highlights that this doctor should be tried under various provisions of the Indian Penal Code and other relevant laws.

The incident
Four months after the incident took place, the matter came in for hearing at the commission in July 2013. “My son has been going to the same therapy centre for five years and on the day of the incident, he was supposed to meet the speech therapist.

The occupational therapist, Dr Reena Singh, was not even involved and when she couldn’t control my son, she manhandled him to the extent that my son could not walk for sometime,” said the mother of the child. Parents and activists from Childline had also alleged that CCTV footage from the day of the incident shows that Singh “forcefully” shoved the child into a room and pulled his ears. “The footage clearly shows that at one point, the doctor had overpowered the child by sitting on him, which is how his legs got hurt,” said the mother.

During the two hearings on this issue, the commission had also invited the therapist in question, and asked her to submit documents to prove if she was qualified to take care of a child with autism. However, after a series of hearings, a panel of experts were put together from JJ Hospital who was asked to go through the CCTV footage of the incident and submit a report to the police. This report was submitted at the commission in August and it clearly stated that the CCTV footage “does not prove that the child was physically tortured by the concerned doctor”.

While the doctor could not be reached for comments, parents are still insistent that the therapy centre needs to be shut down.

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