Autism is a very unique illness. There is no two children affected exactly the same and there is no one treatment that will safely or effectively treat all affected children.
In recent days I have been talking on a facebook group dedicated to a father’s quest to have his autistic daughter returned and in talking and listening I have noticed a few facts.
- Most if not all social services have absolutely no concept of autism at all
- Even fewer have any Understanding of what autism is.
- They really don’t actually care about the illness.
- They care even less the damage their actions take.
That may sound extreme and I realize that there probably are a few people within child protective services who really are looking out for the best interests of the child, however from what I am seeing in quite a few cases like this, they seriously miss the mark.
Social service workers need to understand a few things.
- Never should a child with special needs be taken from their family without clear signs of neglect or mistreatment. (exceptions allowed when family clearly requests help due to being overwhelmed, however this is normally not the case with special needs children)
- The decision to remove a special needs child from their home should only ever be made by an expert in the care of that specific special need.
- An autistic child pulling a “runner” is not a sign of an overworked parent, it is instead normal. Parents usually are fully aware of this risk however most autistic children will overcome the protections put in place at some point. They really are that much smarter then we are.
- If an autistic child pulls a “runner” and you feel it is necessary to get involved, your involvement should be limited to helping the parent(s) find the resources to fix the specific problem (care must be taken not to make the fix so exclusive as to limit other children, as well as to make sure that there is always another step of security available to be taken) *further below I will explain this last statement.
- Autism does not respond to medication. Medication may mask the symptoms but they do nothing to solve the issues of behaviour these can only be solved through some variation of ABA therapy or depending on the individual child various other therapies.
*To properly explain the issues of security you must first understand the nature of autistic children. They want the freedom on the other side of that door, they have absolutely no fear and they really are at least in some ways smarter then any of us. Failure to understand those details will cause problems both for yourself and for the child.
An autistic child will always seek a route to escape. They are looking to escape noise, smells, food, anything that they don’t like and they are always looking for ways to leave. They also are smart enough to find those routes.
Any given autistic child when finding a previous escape route blocked will look for the next available escape route. No house, no matter how well built or how well planned is able to be perfectly sealed. This means that if you slowly build up security overtime as your child finds each new potential escape route then you potentially can avoid a dangerous running situation. However if you lock your house up solid until there is no further room to leave, the child will still find an escape route, however this escape route will be something that will no longer be able to be blocked.
Always, at all times leave a little bit of room where a child can feel like there is room to get away. Let it lead to a quiet space but leave a space for the child to feel like they can “escape” and don’t lock the place down all at once but gradually over time as it will raise the stress of the child and lead them to take excessive chances.
Child Protective Services type organizations need to realize that in almost all situations the best resource and the best care option for an autistic child is with the parent and that only under extreme circumstances should an autistic child ever be removed simply because a normal foster family does not have the understanding or resources necessary to deal with an autistic child entering their family at an advanced age unless they are already a parent of an autistic child in the first place.
If as you say the needs of the child are first and foremost then above and beyond all else remember the removal of any child but most importantly a special needs child should always be an action of last resort, when a child is being abused or neglected, or is at high risk of being abused or neglected. A court date to verify the legitimacy of the removal should happen within 2 weeks at the maximum and no medication should be given to the child beyond normal medication until the child is seen by an expert in the specific illness the child may be suffering in.