Covering their backs!

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.

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10 Responses to Covering their backs!

  1. AliD says:

    I wish I could say it goes awa y as your child reaches adulthood but it won’t. The pressure is then put on your son by authorities who will tell him they know more than he does about his autism and how he behaves/responds with it. I get it so often and it makes me so angry. All toucan do is teach him now the self esteem to be able to cope with peoPle like that. He has the benefit that he’s young and you can start now. Apologies for odd words etc I can’t check this on my phone

    • Aspie in the family says:

      Thank you for sharing your experiences. It really disappoints me to hear that people like my son get treated like this when they reach adulthoood. It angers me even more that autistic people are not listened to properly; I mean they’re the experts in autism and aspergers as far as I’m concerned. Thank you for the advice about working on self esteem; its definitely something I shall do.

  2. JuliesMum says:

    Yes, we’ve had these letters too (triggered by our constant visits to A&E with my daughter). I know the system is designed to pick up vulnerable kids, but it never seems to occur to them that the parents have no idea when social services have been alerted, so these letters arrive out of the blue like bombshells. It’s a real failure of empathy. Incidentally, we’ve had the exact same letter when we’ve been *seeking* the involvement of social services – it’s also the standard brush-off letter – and it is just as irritating if you get it when you’re coming at it from the side, so to speak! Not much consolation though.

    • Aspie in the family says:

      I think you’ve absolutely right – its a total lack of empathy of family life and disability/mental health. A bit of understanding goes a long way, I think, in building relationships and trust. At least I know I’m not the only one to receive such horrid letters. Deb x

  3. Fiona says:

    Deb, We are on the same wavelength here, as I’m sure you are aware. I want social services to do their job. I want children protected. However I do not want to feel that I have to watch my back all the time or have my privacy invaded because I am the parent of a child with a disability. My child is protected, loved, and cared for. I’m still cross about what happened to us and I really shouldn’t be allowing this to sap my energy, I need to concentrate on getting well. Brilliant post!

    • Aspie in the family says:

      Totally feel for you Fiona and agree with everything you say. Its horrid to feel I have to watch my back when I know I’m a good mum. Anyway, wishing you a speedy recovery. Deb x

  4. Jazzygal says:

    Oh God Deb, I’d be worried too if I received a letter like that. It is my opinion also that letters like this show a distinct lack of understanding of Autistic Spectrum Disorders by Government Departments. Very worrying indeed. You do well to raise awareness;-)

    xx Jazzy

    • Aspie in the family says:

      It is worrying isn’t it Jazzy. The more I travel along this autism journey as a parent, the more I am shocked at the widespread lack of understanding of disability and family life. Our blogs are very much needed; whether they’ll be part of the social change that we desperately need only time will tell, I guess. Deb x

  5. Lizbeth says:

    I’m aghast that you would receive such a letter. That would make me feel so vulnerable and insecure feeling like you were being watched or put on notice. Sigh. I get our public providers are there to help but really?? Help the ones who need it. Sigh.

    • Aspie in the family says:

      It was an awful time because we were busy helping our son recover from school refusal, phobia and agoraphobia. I was working so hard to help him recover and then to get this letter was like being punched in the face! My confidence with public servants was at an all time low and I became very nervous of going out with my son. Even now I struggle to trust professionals. Deb x

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