Saturday, August 14, 2010

Autism and Safety

As I talked about in my last post, autism can be a health hazard.  I don't want to dwell on such a morbid subject but this is a very important subject and ignoring it could be hazardous to your children's health.

Whether it is a young child with autism running back into a fire, wandering away from home and dying of the elements, or a parent snapping under the stress of a having a children with autism, autism has contributed to or caused the death of many people.

Of course, since we are talking about autism, there are a variety of opinions about whether autism "itself" (whatever that means) is what causes the health hazards or whether it is other factor that do.  And, as is normal in the autism world, you have the majority of parents on one side and the "autistics" and the neurodiverse parents on the other.  I can understand where the former are coming from, but the parents, those I just don't get.

But regardless of whether you think that autism is a health hazard, it is important to remember that autism causes safety issues for children and young adults.

I think that the basic safety issues might be hard for some people to fully understand if you do not have a young child with autism or have not experienced the problems first hand.  Many of these children simply do not understand and cannot navigate the dangers that "typical" children can.  They will run out the door, walk out in front of cars, jump in pools when they can't swim, and charge into any and every situation without any understanding or ability to understand the dangers.

They will continue to do this long after every "typical" child has learned to navigate these dangers.  If a parent isn't careful these behaviors, behaviors caused by autism, can be the death of their child.

With three children on the spectrum, we have had to do some remodeling of our house to deal with the danger.  We added bedrooms and moved doorways so that we have a set of bedrooms that can be gated off from the rest of the house.  So, every night, there are multiple child gates stopping the children from getting out of that area of the house and the exterior doors have locks, deadbolts, extra locks up high, and alarms to prevent our children from being able to leave the house undetected.  These measures are there for their protection and to keep them safe.

During the day, there is always someone watching the children to make sure that they don't get into a situation that would pose a threat to them and to make sure that they don't wander away.  Because if they wandered away, they would not be able to tell anyone who they are, where they live, or anything else about themselves.  In other words, they would be completely defenseless.

Going out into public posses other safety challenges as well.

The funny thing is that my children aren't actively trying to escape or wander and aren't little daredevils.  For the most part they are actually very well behaved little girls.  But there have been a few incidents where they have almost wandered away or gotten themselves into situations that would have been hazardous.  These incidents and situations were directly caused by a lack of understand of the environment and this lack of understanding is directly because of autism.

The risks are simply too great to ignore.


  1. We have 2 and we're lucky the elder has gone from non-verbal mild PDD to mild NLD with a HUGE reduction in behaviour. So now we have an annoying "normal" tween... which beats the destructive, head slamming toddler/primary grades. Btwn rispedal (age 6 to 8), speech and a behavioural program at home and school he's doing very, very well.

    My youngest, we've used a spike for dogs to keep in the yard with a body harness and a long rope when he was small... our yard doesn't work for fencing on the farm and the playground is btwn the houses in the old sheep yard.

    Once he vanished while we were putting up the canopy... 2 secs... that's all my back was turned... Grandpa found him walking home along the road.

    Once he vanished while I was in the bathroom. I heard him go.. Dad wanted to oil my doors once and I told him it was my early warning system... I was only a moment behind him... luckily Grandpa and Dh had seen him... how he got into the granary and into the main barn unhurt... But there he was, standing there completely naked.

    Once, he went out the door while Dh was on the phone. He crossed the road... he wanted to see the pretty flowers in the field - tobacco. He wandered back to the play yard as if nothing was wrong.

    See... he's not lost. We take him daily out and about in the gator, he knows exactly where he is... And he'll resurface when he's ready to come home...

    This summer for the first time in nearly 9yrs I can pull weeds in my veggie garden, across the lane from the play yard... Just a few yards from him... and not worry about him vanishing...

    Friday I spent 30min registering him with the OPP since he's going to town to school next year instead of the village....

    Autism... is not "wonderful". Yes, he's cute, adorable, gives Mommy kisses, doesn't talk to strangers, is trying hard to master joint attention and tell me exactly what he's excited about.... Yes, he can read orally at a Gr 4 level (Grade level) but answering questions orally is very difficult... Yes, Yes, Yes... BUT...

    But, it's frightening to... unless you actually have to live with a non-verbal child... and luckily mine isn't voilent b/c many are... just go to the PDD/ASD classrooms, mine's the first severe ASD child to attend that slow learners class since she started teaching it 15yrs later, most never come as far socially, behaviourally, academically... You just don't understand what it's like and no matter what you say until they go and see for themselves you get posts that say "It's the caregivers fault"... Like I need another slap at my parental guilt button...

  2. You do as much as you can to keep your children safe - and it isn't easy - but no matter how much you do it is never going to be 100% safe. There will always be that second when your back is turned or you are districted or one child waits for the other to cause a ruckus before making their move (twins with autism are fun).

    And then if (god forbid) something happens, you get it from all sides - the why didn't you do just this one little thing that would have prevented this (because I was already doing 995 other things) and from the other side "they didn't do that because of their autism" with a heaping side of you must be a bad parent.

    So I have decided to have my parental guilt button surgically removed. It is a relatively quick and painless procedure and best of all, you don't have to feel guilty about removing it.