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.  
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