Women wanted for taunting child with autism on video at Winter Haven school

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Police in Winter Haven are looking for two childcare workers accused of berating, taunting, and throwing a backpack at an eight-year-old child with autism.

Police say they were called after a Snapchat video surfaced showing the women, identified as 26-year-old Kaderrica Smith of Haines City, and then-19-year-old Alexus Henderson of Dundee, yelling at and taunting an eight-year-old child at Our Children's Academy in Winter Haven.

The boy, who was diagnosed with autism, ADHD, ODD, and severe outbursts, was seen and heard in the video crying and hiding underneath a table while he was being taunted by Henderson and Smith.

Police say at one point, the child gets out from under the table and runs around the room when one of the workers grabs his arms and does a "leg sweep," causing him to fall flat on his back.

Police say the video shows one of the workers throwing shoes and a backpack at the child while he's under the table.

“When we interviewed them they defended what they had done as being the appropriate thing to deal with this child.”

Just last month, Smith and Henderson were certified to work with children with autism, according to police.

No one from the school could be reached for comment, but according to police both Smith and Henderson were fired immediately after the video surfaced.

Meanwhile, Rae Ryan says she pulled her 8-year-old son from the same academy back in 2014.

“In January, I went into the school and witnessed them dragging a child by their arms and feet down the hallway, and that was the last day my son went there,” Ryan recalled.

Ryan says, as the mother of a child with autism, she fears what happened will have a lasting impact on the child involved.

“I know for my son, just a change in teachers is a huge deal, so for somebody that he actually looks up to every day to do that to him, that’s huge,” she said.

The Department of Children and Families has placed a hold on their certifications so they could not be re-employed by any entity that works with children during their investigation.

Since police interviewed the women last week, they haven’t been able to find them and charge them.

Smith is facing charges of battery and child abuse. Henderson is being charged with child neglect. Anyone who knows where they could be is asked to call winter haven police.Heartland Crime Stoppers at 1-800-226-TIPS (8477). Callers can remain anonymous and be eligible for a reward.