HASTINGS, Minn. (KMSP) - A former daycare provider in Hastings now has a criminal record after admitting to biting a child in her care.
Now seven years old, Jaxson Kirchhof is described by his mom as highly functioning on the autism spectrum. In August of last year he was admittedly having a bad day at his Hastings daycare.
“He was having a difficult time and he apparently threw some chair or kicked some chairs,” said Jaxson’s mom, Melissa Kirchhof. “She put him into a restraint and he bit down on her and she bit him back.”
That bite didn't break Jaxson's skin, but was enough for 57-year-old Christine Neubauer to be fired from the Hillside Daycare Center that day. Prosecutors charged her with gross misdemeanor malicious punishment of a child. Prior to her sentencing, Neubauer's attorney told the judge after 11 years at the center and a Master's in childhood education this was the first problem reported.
Meanwhile, Kirchhof says more than a year later her son is still affected by the abuse.
“We put him into trauma therapy, extra programs for his autism,” said Kirchhof. “He is successfully in school now this year, but it took awhile.”
Kirchhof says she had previously made it clear her son does not like to be touched. Sensory issues are quite common with kids on the spectrum.
“My daughter told me she had seen Ms. Neubauer restrained my son on an everyday basis,” said Kirchhof.
“It would be like wrapping someone else up in sandpaper and expecting them to sit still,” said interim director of the Autism Society of Minnesota, Dawn Brasch.
Brasch hasn't heard of a situation like this going this far in court, yet she echoes what the judge told Neubauer during sentencing.
“When you take your children to someone you expect to care for, this is not what you expect to happen because they are not there to be disciplinarians,” said Brasch. "To certainly understand that discipline isn't effective because they don't understand discipline, you've done nothing but injure a child.”
When parents with autistic children are looking for daycare providers, Brasch says it’s important to be proactive. Parents should discuss options for the daycare provider that do not include restraint. Brasch says it’s also important to find out how much experience the provider has with caring for special needs children, and if they are willing to learn new tips and tools. She adds it also can be helpful to talk with other kids in the class about an autistic child's behavior so everyone knows what to expect. More information can be found at: https://www.ausm.org/
In court Friday, Neubauer apologized for biting Jaxson. The judge gave Neubauer two options, 30 days in jail or 60 days on electronic home monitoring. Neubauer chose the latter. The judge said in court while this might have been an isolated incident, it was extremely bad behavior on the part of a daycare provider.
“I appreciate that she apologized,” said Kirchhof. “I think it's going to take some time. It's going to take some time to forgive.”