Student with autism dies after choking at Brooklyn school

RIPBrooklyn, NY – The New York City Department of Education is investigating the death of a 21-year-old student with autism Dyashsa Smith. According to her 70-year-old mother Catherine Smith, who had fostered and later adopted her at age 3, Dyasha was supposed to be supervised while at Star Academy in Cobble Hill.

She had told the staff that they needed to cut up her daughter’s food or else she’d take larger then chewable bites.

“She will take a handful of something and put it in her throat and swallow it at once,” Ms. Smith told The New York Times, “She’s like a child, like a baby child.”

The tragic event took place around noon in the basement cafeteria when people noticed something wrong with Dyasha and ran to get the nurse. A school safety agent called 911 at 12:11. Paramedics arrived at the school and found the nurse performing CPR. It’s unclear if anyone performed the Heimlich maneuver.

Around this time Ms. Smith heard from another parent at the school that something happened to her daughter. She started calling her daughter’s assigned aid who didn’t pick up the phone. Half an hour later the vice principal called to say Dyasha had choked and that paramedics were trying to resuscitate her. She soon got another called saying that her daughter was being taken to New York Methodist Hospital. Sadly, her daughter was pronounced dead shortly after.

“If somebody was with this child, they could have been able to save her from choking,”

Ms. Smith told the New York Times, adding that the school had been careless. Ms.Smith also said that her daughter’s individual education program, or IEP, which details a child’s specific needs, notes that she needed one-on-one supervision at all times. A spokeswomen for the department declined to comment.

According to students, a guidance councilor got on the PA system the next day and asked for a moment of silence for Dyasha Smith, while sympathy cards were passed around the school for people to sign. One was for Ms. Smith, the other was for the nurse.

The original article by Kate Taylor on The New Times website can be read here

Contributed by Audrey L. Hollingshead reporting.