If you read about my son’s disappearance you probably thought that the saga ended with his safe return home. Unfortunately it didn’t.
A few weeks after the event I received a letter from our local social services stating that on this occasion no action would be taken. Not knowing whether this was standard practice or not, I felt quite threatened. What did they mean by action, why did the police tell them about it, why didn’t anyone talk to me instead of sending a faceless and intimidating letter? My mind was in a whirl trying to work out why I had such a letter and whether I had done something wrong.
Fortunately we were working with a psychologist at the time who was helping us with our son’s anxieties. So I took the opportunity of mentioning this to her. She reassured me that it was unlikely that any action would be taken as this was probably a case of the police covering their backs. Covering their backs!
I didn’t know what to say to be honest as I didn’t expect people to behave like this. It seemed incredulous to me that in the process of covering their backs they made us feel so worried and stressed that we had done something wrong. My son is autistic and ran off. This is the norm for him and others like him – to run off. Most times we are able to take preventative action but occassionally we are not able to, mainly because our son sometimes reacts suddenly with no obvious signs of distress. In any case is it fair that my son be couped up in his home all the time just because there’s a risk he may run off and inconvenince others?
As it was, for many months afterwards we were even more cautious about going out for fear of a similar thing happening again and getting into even more trouble. Fortunately, we haven’t had another episode since but no doubt we are on a list somewhere.
Looking back, this is the worst thing about being a parent of special needs children – our vulnerability and exposure to the state. I hate it. I hate the intrusion of public servants, many of who assume they know more than me and who talk down to me because I’m only a parent. In some ways they do know more than me, in other ways I know more than them particularly with regard to my children and their autistic disorders.
And it has become quite apparent though the appointments I have attended that many public servants do not sufficiently understand the autism spectrum which worries me a lot because without understanding, wrong decisions can be made. We have already read about the case of Mark Neary, the father of the severely autistic son who successfully challenged his lcoal council over the unlawful detainment of his son. It transpired that the council claimed that Mr Neary’s son had challenging behaviour and was dangerous in public. His father argued that the bad behaviour was due to his son’s unhappiness at being kept away from his home. One wonders whether an insufficient understanding of autism was a contributory factor in the errors of judgement made in this case.
In my opinion autism isn’t just learnt from a book, it is also something you learn from experience either as someone with it or as somone who cares for an autistic person. It makes sense therefore that we should be working more collaboratively to support children and young people instead of having the state flex its muscles and tell parents and carers what to do. I appreciate that the state has a role to to defend and protect the vulnerable which it should do but there is a fine line between this and allowing us our personal freedoms.
(Please note that this post is based on my experiences as a parent raising two children on the autism spectrum.)
This post is day 9 of the nablopomo challenge.