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Vegas Lost: 'Autism court' helps kids who would otherwise be going to detention centers

Hearing Master Sonny Bailey sits with the power of the court behind her and candy next to her to listen to the cases that come through 'Autism Court'. (KSNV)

In Sunny Bailey’s courtroom the first person that stood out was the smallest person in the room. The voice of a nervous ten year old could barely be heard. Her mom and grandparents looked on as the Hearing Master asked questions.

Minutes later, a teenage boy hurriedly walked over to Bailey with a binder in his hands. He asked her to look at his homework.

It can be hard to believe these kids have a few things in common; they’re all in court, they’re all defendants, and they are all autistic.

This is autism court. Hearings are designed specifically for kids with autism. In place of a gallery of members of the public there are more than a dozen representatives of health care, insurance, law offices and therapy.

Without this court, these kids -- most of them arrested for assault or battery -- could be going to detention centers.

“They can’t handle the level of frustration so they act out often violently.” Bailey told us. “We’re the first court in the nation to focus solely on autistic youth.”

Hearing Master Sunny Bailey sits with the power of the court behind her and a basket of candy next to her. Her daughter is autistic. She knows how important therapy is to both the child and the parent.

“Early intervention is key. But now we have a lot of children that are entering teens with no services at all. Its not early intervention its any intervention is key.”

Most, if not all of the kids and teenagers who come in front of her have never have therapy at all. Their arrests typically the side effect of their autism. Bailey says why not sentence them to get the help they need. And get them that help before they turn 18 when insurance companies could close their doors.

“Our job is rehabilitative and to provide support for parents. Any court that can benefit these children should be utilized.”

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