Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Young boy with autism is handcuffed

I read this article and I couldn’t get it out of my head. It struck me how easily something like this could happen to my son or many other kids I know.

An 8-year old boy with autism had a meltdown on a school bus and was then handcuffed and taken to the local children’s hospital for a mental health hold. They kept the boy in handcuffs long after he had calmed down. The mother was not allowed to escort her son to the hospital and instead the boy was transported by the police.

So many things run through my head when I think once again about this story.  
First, this whole thing is so very sad. For the mom. For the dad. For the child. For autism parents like me. For everyone. It also makes me angry. Very angry.   
Second, can you say lawsuit? There are so many things that could have legal remedy here. Most importantly is the lack of proper IEP implementation.
Third, the meltdown trigger could be so simple that it’s tragic to see how the whole thing unfolded. The article mentioned that the boy required a special seat belt for his bus transportation. Have any of you, like me, ever seen the calming effect of a seat belt (like a 5-point harness) on a child in full-tilt meltdown? Could it be all about the sensory for this boy?
There were times when Grumpy Badger would be flipping out in public, and all I could do was remove him from the situation and go sit with him in the car (belted into his car seat) until he calmed down. Sometimes getting him belted in, despite his physical struggle, was the only way to stop the escalation of his meltdown.
Along the same lines, isn’t it also safe to conjecture that something as insignificant as a change in routine (like this boy not having his special seat belt on the bus that day) could cause a meltdown, particularly if there is a sensory component to it? I think it is very possible.
The idea that it all could have come down to a change in routine and an easily-identifiable sensory issue really gets me. Could it have really been that simple?
The parents concerns over this incident should be pondered very carefully by the school district. The mother questioned why the police “didn’t take the handcuffs off once he had calmed down.” Very good question, mom! I don’t think there will be any sort of acceptable answer to that one. The father said, “It’s humiliating and it’s inhumane. If you’re going to tell me that ten adults can’t handle a 40 or 50 pound child, then there is something wrong. He didn’t need to be in handcuffs.” Dad, your words ring very true to me!
I could go on and on about this, but I don’t think you need or want me to hammer the point home in extremely minute detail. I think it’s fairly obvious that I don’t like what happened to this 8-year old boy one bit. This child was improperly served by his school and the situation was dealt with in the wrong way. Plain and simple. I can only pray that I never have to experience something like this with my own children.  
What are your thoughts about this incident? Please share your comments below.  


Tammee Meneghin said...

First of all this article brought me to tears because I know how easily this could happen to my own child. Secondly I agree with all of your extremely valid points that point out the flaws in this situation.
But there is something else that is bothering me very deeply and that is the police response to this situation. As if keeping the handcuffs on after the outburst had ceased was not bad enough, I am dumbfounded by the idea that an AUTISTIC child who is already receiving care by a team of professionals would have to undergo further screening via the mental health hold. For many of us who have children on the spectrum, this is just a day in the life. It is not uncommon, and we all have our own unique ways of getting through it. While I would understand this step if the parents were not available take the child into their own custody; it does not seem reasonable under the circumstances. IN fact it would seem that the response given could make the situation much much worse.
My heart goes out to these parents and that sweet boy. I can only hope that law enforcement agencies begin to comprehend the impact of autism and establish healthy and reasonable protocols in the future.

Becky said...

This is why I don't put either of my autistic children in school. I would be broken followed by enraged if such a think were to happen to one of my monkeys

Caffeinated Autism Mom said...

Thank you both for your comments! Tammee, you are absolutely correct with your insight to this story. I agree 100%.

Sharon said...

Okay, a day late and a dollar short, but this happened to me as well. My daughter, with an IEP for autism, ADHD, sensory integration and anxiety, spent a couple weeks going to guidance over and over complaining of severe anxiety. Finally, during some testing where they pulled all the special services kids into the auditorium for it, some other kid was making a gun at her with his fingers (at other kids too) and she had a full blown panic attack again, telling him to stay away or she would stab him with a pencil. So they took her to the ER in handcuffs and I didn't get to see her for an hour or so. THEN we had to wait 14 hours to see the provider, whereupon we were sent home. Needless to say, we have not let her back to school. She has an HHT until they can get their act together. Preferably send her to a special ed school, but.

The school says they are "legally obligated" to take a child to the ER in handcuffs if they pose a credible threat to themselves or someone else. However, the school is very familiar with my how her panic attacks manifest, and know that she makes extreme statements as a coping strategy. (whatever will get people away during a panic attack) So I don't really believe them when they say she posed a credible threat.

AND THEN the school guidance lady said she wants my daughter back in school to see what triggers the attacks. Basically, they want to see her have one. But she's the same person who told us they were "legally obligated" to take her away in handcuffs if it happens. So if she's successful, my daughter would be taken away in handcuffs again. We told her no.

This occurred during the investigation of a non-compliance suit we had filed against the school. They lost, and badly. Part of the result was that they had 60 days to review ALL the student's IEPs and fix them.

Of course, that means they are throwing my daughter's IEP out the window, and redoing it from scratch - she has had to have speech testing, OT/PT testing, cognitive testing, and we still have academic testing to do. The teacher administering the academic portion emailed me to schedule, saying that he was on a break during administration of same testing to 240 other students. I felt kind of bad about that....it's good they have to review all the IEPs, but the teachers take the brunt of that.

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