DuPage County Judge James Orel said he usually would prefer not to send a 69-year-old woman with a medical history to prison.
But in the case of Joyce Jones on Thursday, he made an exception.
"These acts were so despicable," Orel said, "I have no choice."
He then sentenced the Bolingbrook woman, convicted last month of six counts of misdemeanor battery to a 9-year-old boy with autism, to 30 days in jail, two years of probation and counseling.
"I have in front of me a mother who just told me she would not want someone to do to her children what she did to this victim," Orel said. "Its unconscionable and defies understanding."
Jones, of the 200 block of Seabury Lane, was an employee of a school bus company in April 2016 that contracted with Indian Prairie Unit District 204. She was assigned to monitor the 9-year-old boy as he rode home from school on a bus for special needs students.
The boy's mother, in her victim impact statement, said it was only after she implored the district to help her find out why her son had become so fearful of the bus and school that Jones "got caught."
"His outbursts were triggered by the school bus and by me saying he's OK," the mother said, sobbing from the witness stand. "I was putting him on that bus and telling him he's OK. He was telling me that he wasn't."
Recordings from the bus would later show that Jones hit the child on at least 26 separate occasions between February and April 2016, Assistant State's Attorney Meg Lafata said.
"This defendant victimized a boy who she knew did not have a voice of his own," Lafata said, arguing for a 90-day jail sentence and two years of probation. "Her behavior was both criminal and horrific."
Jones, given a chance to speak before Orel imposed the sentence, apologized to the boy's mother and said she knew she was wrong. But she also blamed her former employer for putting her in the position to monitor the boy without any training.
"Not only did I not know he was autistic, but I did not know I was monitoring just (the victim). I thought I was watching him and another child," she said. "All I was told was to keep him from swallowing things and I did that."
Later she said the boy "was harmed by me six times and I'm sorry. There were six times I was wrong and I am sorry."
Orel said he was most disturbed by a portion of the video showing Jones high-fiving the bus driver after one particular beating as the driver called the child a "whack job."
The driver who regularly drove the bus also was charged and previously pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct.
Jones has to report to DuPage County jail by 6 p.m. on Sept. 7 to begin serving her sentence.
District 204 spokeswoman Janet Buglio said the district will not comment on the case or Thursday's sentencing. The district serves students in portions of Naperville, Aurora, Bolingbrook and Plainfield.