Thursday, March 19, 2015

My thoughts as an autism mama...


Last month a 9 year old Ontario boy with autism was handcuffed at school, by a police officer, during a particularly violent outburst.  The family has since decided to keep little Daniel home from school until they have all the details of the incident. They are also considering legal action.

As a mother of a 9 year old autistic son this story really hit home. I actually tried to avoid it at first because my heart immediately ached for everyone involved.

There was a time I was called to the school almost daily to help my son get through an outburst.  Thankfully, I work only minutes away and the school knew I was just a phone call away.  I remember a particular incident that had me physically restraining him for more than half an hour before finally getting him into the car with the help of 2 aides.  To put this in perspective, it took 3 grown women almost an hour to get a 7 year old child into a car.  The episodes would live us all drained... physically and emotionally.

He punched & kicked holes in walls, threw chairs, ripped papers... literally tried to destroy anything and everything within arm's reach and nothing, NOTHING could calm him.

An autistic child in the middle of a violent outburst cannot be reasoned with.
(it has taken us years to finally be able to be "a step ahead" of an outburst and to know how to diffuse the situation before it gets really bad)

Do I blame the school & the police officer... no. I wasn't there, but I would hope they had tried all other interventions & procedures before handcuffing him.  I'm hoping they had nothing but his safety & well being in mind when they put those handcuffs on him.  I hope they *though* they had no other choice.  I can't imagine anyone waking up wanting their day to end like that.  However, had my child hurt himself or another person, I would be devastated.  Do I blame the parents for breaking down, being angry and wanting to know why this happened... absolutely not!!  The mother describes breaking down in tears when finding out her son had been handcuffed... I can relate. Nothing in the world can prepare you for that.  I've walked into the school to find my child being restrained by staff... it's heartbreaking.

I hope this incident has raised awareness of the importance of having school staff and law enforcement properly trained on how to deal with these special children and their extreme meltdowns.  They need the proper training and resources to ensure this never happens again! 

I keep Daniel and his parents in my thoughts and I hope they get the answers they need to move forward from this. 


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11 comments

  1. Such a sad situation... I get that the school had to protect the child from himself and others, but I would be devastated if I had to walk into the school and see my child restrained, for any reason.

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  2. I can't even imagine and I agree with you. I hope this was their last resort.

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  3. You really hit the nail on your head when you noted the importance of being properly trained and have the proper resources available. I've worked with a lot of children and youth who have Autism and communicating with them and their parents about their needs is SO SO SO important. Knowing what someone's triggers are and how to identify the beginnings of a meltdown really does make all the difference. I've been following this story as well and hope that there will be some sort of positive outcome from a horrible situation.

    Sorry for the somewhat long & rambley comment! I could talk about autism awareness and education all day :)

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  4. This is a difficult topic and there isn't a black or white answer. You never want harm to come to a child, whether they have autism or not. One thing I wanted to mention that people tend to forget is that the first thing you learn when taking a First Aid course, training for an enforcement job, etc, your safety comes first. If you're faced with a situation that could harm you, and as a police officer, you're called in to mediate the situation, you don't want to be a situation where you could be harmed. (In this case, however, the officer was a bystander.)

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