March 14, 2017

Single mother Marie Ralph from Newquay, U.K. is asking for understanding for people with autism and similar disabilities after her 7 year-old son was hit in the face by a 46 year-old man. Her son, Malachi, suffers from autism, Tourette’s Syndrome, ADHD, sensory dysfunction, and other disabilities.

The incident occurred last Thursday, after Malachi had an outburst, following an argument that broke out near the boy at Lappa Valley Steam Railway. The man, from Staffordshire, was given a police caution for common assault.

Marie said that the incident has had “traumatic repercussions” on her entire family.

“It would be bad enough with normal children, but the repercussions on our family are massive. I’ve had bottles thrown at me today, he’s [also] sleepwalking. It has made his Tourette’s very bad. This will manifest for a very long time as challenging behavior.”

She went on to say,

“My main aim is to get a positive out of this and raise awareness of the condition.”

The National Autistic Society is supporting Marie in her quest to spread awareness about “hidden” disabilities such as autism. Caroline Hattersley, head of information, advice and advocacy at the society, said,

“Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with, and relates to, other people. Some people with autism are able to live relatively independent lives but others may have accompanying learning disabilities and need a lifetime of specialist support. Unlike a physical disability, it’s a hidden condition and it’s important that we raise public awareness so that everyone with autism receives the understanding they need.”

Marie has also made an official complaint against the police for the way they dealt with the incident and handled her case. A spokesman for the Devon and Cornwall police said,

“We understand an official complaint is being made against an officer. It would be inappropriate to comment about this incident until this matter has been properly dealt with.”

While this case certainly brings attention to the need for public awareness of disabilities such as autism, it is also disconcerting that a 46 year-old man received a police caution for striking a 7 year-old child. Any child would be traumatized by an assault such as this, but for a child with autism and other varied disabilities, the consequences are even greater.

“People with autism deal with things differently; they process information so differently. My friend’s child, who is autistic, was there with us too, and keeps talking about it. This should not be happening,”

says Marie.

Marie hopes that sharing her son’s story will lead to greater awareness and tolerance for people who suffer from autism and other “hidden” disabilities that are not immediately apparent. Malachi’s outburst occurred in response to an argument that broke out between others who were also at the Railway. He was not intentionally trying to cause a disturbance. Unfortunately, there are still many who do not understand the challenges that children like Malachi face on a daily basis. Hopefully his story will bring awareness to the problem.

About the author 

Laurel Joss

Laurel Joss is a freelance writer with a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education. She worked as an RDI® Program Certified Consultant and has published articles in Autism Spectrum Quarterly and on her blog She is a mother to two children, one of whom is on the autism spectrum. You can also follow her on and

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