Autistic Students’ Crayons Dipped in Hot Sauce

A Florida special education teacher, Lillian Gomez, could lose her job after allegedly putting hot sauce on crayons to stop her autistic students from putting them in their mouths.

Families of the children are calling for Gomez to be fired. Karina Holguin’s two five-year-old nephews are both students of Gomez at Sunrise Elementary School in Kissimmee; she told WFTV:

“I was really upset. I couldn’t believe it. Honestly, I was like how can a teacher of so many years do something like that. They got to be traumatized, especially for a kid who can’t express himself like any other children that can tell you this hurts or doesn’t hurt.”

Gomez allegedly put the hot sauce on the crayons last fall to stop her autistic students from chewing on them. She was removed from her classroom after the incident surfaced; the Osceola County superintendent has called for her to be fired and a termination hearing is scheduled for later this month.

The Use of Inhumane Aversive Techniques on Autistic Individuals

If you’re wondering how Gomez could have thought to do something so cruel to her students with disabilities, some programs and schools for autistic and developmentally disabled individuals have used hot sauce and other aversive techniques to “alter or suppress self-abusive behaviors or any other behaviors that staff members deem as uncooperative or unfavorable.” One such school, the Judge Rotenberg Education Center (JRC) in Canton, Massachusetts, has used the following:

…spanking, pinching, forcing to eat taste aversives (vinegar mix, jalapeno peppers, or hot sauce), withholding food, forcing to smell ammonia, spraying water to the face, forcing to listen to static noises through specially designed helmets, and their trade mark method, the use of the Graduated Electronic Decelerator (GED), which simply put is a shocking device that delivers a jolt to the student/patient of up to 65 volts of electricity through remote control.

Yes, that’s right. Some schools have given autistic and other individuals with disabilities an electric shock as a means of stopping self-injurious and other behaviors.

In 2007, the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care found that the JRC had treated two residents abusively, after they were shocked using the GED when a former student, pretending to be a staff member, made the request over the phone. The JRC’s operations were under review by the state of Massachusetts until December 2008. In 2011, Massachusett’s Department of Developmental Services banned the JRC and other facilities for the developmentally disabled from using harmful aversive techniques including electric shock, long-term restraint, or aversives that pose the risk of psychological harm on new admissions.

My teenage son Charlie has a history of some really difficult behaviors but never once have we thought of using such cruel methods. It is not easy, and every individual is different, but we have been able to help him through such behaviors and to lessen them, largely by taking into account (1) Charlie’s immense struggles to communicate (he can talk, but only in 1 – 5 word utterances) and (2) his extreme sensitivity to sensory stimuli.

Given all this, I was even more shocked to read about Gomez allegedly putting the hot sauce on the crayons. There are plenty of other, humane ways to teach children not to chew on crayons or non-food items. It is heartbreaking that the children in Gomez’s classroom have had to endure such trauma and cruel treatment about which they are very likely unable even to talk about, to explain their pain.

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Photo by kenny_lex


Prim Prior
Colin K5 years ago

Why are we all so taken in by out of context SENSATIONALIST STORIES.

What is better a short term unpleasantness HOT SAUCE is CERTAINLY NOT TORTURE better than having toxic crayons in the gut of Autistic children. Hot sauce kept my pup from eating the wood on the legs of furniture.

If you really want the best for your child then look after him or her and let others do their job.

Outsourcing our children is the worst hurt they can experience....NOT HOT SAUCE. Early child abandonment is an affliction that stays with us all our life.

Stay home for the most important primal years and don't use the excuse of buying 300. running shoes an excuse to need two incomes. GET NATURAL and CREATE Love, Harmony, health and happiness.

No wonder we are the laughing stock of the world.

Sandy Erickson
Sandy Erickson5 years ago

It is time that parents stop treating there kids like a moonlight job. This IS their job and they better start being nice to their own kids,

Linda Clarkson Pressman


AnnMarie S.
AnnMarie S5 years ago

This is unbelievable with all the knowledge we have gained over the past ten years some of us especially teachers still revert to barbaric attempts to mold these special children with cruel ways.

Mary Marchetti
Mary Marchetti5 years ago

This is sickening!

Rosemary Graf
Rosemary Graf5 years ago

Teaching has become a profession with many more frustrations with dealing with problem students. Also, it seems as if the education they get to be teachers doesn't give them an outlet or plan to deal with these problems. It's time we find better ways to educate our future teachers so that the disable student can learn in a safe area.

James Campbell
James Campbell5 years ago

Vernon W. “All the child has to do is spit it out and not eat any more! What is the big deal? Too many Americans are too soft headed.”

The main issue here is that the child is autistic. Many autistic children do not understand cause and effect in the same way as other children of the same age. Even those who do stop on one occasion may not transfer this learning to a later event. This is why teaching (and parenting) these children is so difficult and specialised. The teacher in this account may not be a bully, or truly incompetent and I do not believe she should be sacked (unless there are other examples of this kind of behaviour ‘management’ on her record). She (and her school managers) need more support and training (and I speak as someone who has often been called in to investigate the treatment of children with special needs in schools, care homes, hospitals and the family home).

James Campbell
James Campbell5 years ago

John T. “the professions that are most attractive to bullies and pedophiles are priests/clergy, teachers and other school jobs and doctors and therapists.”

I can (and have) call up statistics relating to priests abusing children, but as a doctor, I would be fascinated to see your data on the other professions you list.

Brian M.
Past Member 5 years ago

NT's never seem to run out of creative ways of torturing members of the AT community. We have to find ways to protect ourselves and our children, and to put the NT community on notice that we will use all the resources available to us to fight prejudice and persecution.

Rhea P.
Rhea P5 years ago

@John T. I find your comment very insulting...

"School yard bullies grow up and become adult bullies who find ways to continue hurting people they deem are weaker than they. It is time people start learning that the professions that are most attractive to bullies and pedophiles are priests/clergy, teachers and other school jobs and doctors and therapists. Do not give any of these people your trust until you feel they have earned it especially if you are putting your children in their care."

I don't understand how you can generalize like that. I'm normally not one to be confrontational but, I felt that I needed to speak up for the teachers out there who have gone into the profession because of their love and passion for helping others. I'm extremely far from being a bully... I went into Special Ed and teaching art because I enjoyed helping my students to express themselves through art... in a calm patient manner... not controlling. When I arrived at work each and everyday, my gift was sixty arms reaching out wanting to give me a hug... my gift was the smile on their faces when they finished a project and were able to observe the beauty and the colors... my gift was simply being a part of their lives and I drove to and from work everyday with a smile on my face. Am I a bully? Really? There are bad people in every profession... this woman made a very poor decision... to say that priests/clergy, teachers, doctors and therapists are all bullies and untrustworthy is simply no