I have a 24 year-old son, a 17 year-old daughter and two rescue dogs. I don’t have any special insights to offer, but sometimes just sharing my experiences can be helpful – helpful to me, that is. And maybe, if you have some of these same experiences, you’ll realize you are NOT the only one – that bit was really helpful to me a couple years back.
I decided to blog about my parenting and care-giving experiences – and maybe a little about self care, too. This first entry in the blog is about running – running away – without consideration of safety – it’s a real and often misunderstood problem.
My autistic daughter is a runner – I had alarms on the doors – exterior and all the bedrooms; hooks out of her reach on all the exterior doors when she was little. We had to consider bars on the second story windows – she thought she could jump out the second story window and not be hurt – like in a cartoon.
One day she climbed out the little bathroom window because she decided she did not want to take a bath – to her this was a rational choice. She was on the back porch roof, naked, in November. She was thirteen and had wanted her privacy in the bathroom, so I closed the door. But it did not occur to her that being outside naked was NOT private and not safe. It was a cold draft coming through the house that alerted me to the situation and I was able to coax her back in. Needless to say, that was the last time she was afforded bath-time privacy: after that, I stood outside the open door while she bathed with the shower curtain drawn. (I remember telling an acquaintance that someone at my house climbed naked out on the back porch roof – they asked if it was me! I laughed at the thought – they were serious and didn’t understand why I laughed. Sometimes you just have to laugh so you don’t cry.)
My daughter has no common-sense fear and would be an easy target of whom to take advantage. She is beautiful, and a joy to have around – most of the time. Her demeanor can change in an instant, without warning, and often without an identifiable trigger.
I could accommodate all her sensory issues, keep her on a rigid schedule and overlook any behavior that was just quirky, not safety related. But safety became an increasing concern. Due to her increasingly dangerous attempts to run, and increasingly violent outbursts (she was born drug affected and has related IQ and behavior issues in addition to autism. Let me add she is adopted; I was not the one who took the drugs.) it became unsafe, for her, and for me, to have her here at home.
The police were always wonderful – you can specifically ask for a Crisis Intervention Trained (CIT) officer when you call 911 – this information has been invaluable to me. Unfortunately, it was difficult to get real, substantial help without the juvenile court being involved. I ended up opening a voluntary case with Children’s Services so that they could arrange an appropriate, safe placement for my daughter. They have been truly helpful. Her social worker and MRDD worker are both very dedicated – and I am grateful for them.
My daughter is currently in a residential placement in another distant county. I drive up to see her about twice a month – one of those is an overnight visit, and talk to her on the phone often. She is working toward HS graduation – she may graduate as early as age 20 – and her behavior is improving slowly in a highly regimented program. It is hard to have her away; she is only 17 – but I know she is safe, not running, not hurting herself or me. I am hopeful that she will continue to do well and be able, eventually as an adult, to live closer to home, in a supervised setting.
Recently, a policeman knocked on the door and asked if I had lost a family member – they found a developmentally disabled youth wandering nearby and wanted to know if she was mine. They had been here so often with my daughter, they just assumed it was her again.
There are so many more people in this situation – with a disabled child that will run away with absolutely no concept of the danger – more than you might realize.