Every single day when I walk my son Beckett up to his school, and relinquish his hand over to a Para, or teacher, or therapist, I find myself holding my breath. Every single day.
Not because of the specific person he is going with, but because that person isn’t me.
You see, with nonverbal Autism comes a whole list of worries.
Health and wellness.
Overall safety (indoors AND out).
But the number one thing that worries me each day is the fact that my child cannot speak up if he is being mistreated.
We did the research before buying our home. We looked into all the future schools for the area. We networked with parents of the neighborhood prior, etc.
And I do believe that my son is being well cared for in his settings.
But the thought never leaves me, that I simply do not have the luxury of knowing for certain.
The reality of the matter is that each time I have to hand my sons fragile little hand over to someone else, I then have to “take their word for it”. On the entire day.
Whether he ate.
Whether he got to enjoy outside play.
Whether he was included and cared for, and safe.
I try to let the anxious thoughts leave me each morning by distracting my body and giving myself a “chore list”, and then I read articles like this, about a young, 7-year-old boy in Statesville, North Carolina.
Two years ago now, a mother took her Autistic son into his school, (specifically for special needs) as she did every day.
She released her child to the adults, to be taught, supervised, and cared for, like she did all the days prior. And before that particular day was through, the school’s (then) resource officer, was called to the scene, as the boy had become overwhelmed by the “comings and goings” of the classroom, and in reaction, had been spitting onto the ground.
The resource officer had not first-hand witnessed the behavior, but promptly intervened, said “I’ve got it. He’s mine now”, and told the 7-year-old boy to “get on his knees” and hand-cuffed him on the floor.
This young, autistic boy, from North Carolina, was hand-cuffed, on the floor of his special needs school, for nearly 40 minutes by the officer. Crying, yelling out that he was in pain, being “taunted” by the officer, and ignored by onlooking teachers in the area.
Read that again. 40 minutes. Hand-cuffed.
I can’t begin to fathom what that mother felt as she picked up that phone call, rushed in her vehicle to pick him up, entered the school and witnessed her child in that position. Face down, on the ground. Hand-cuffed, in tears.
My heart skips a beat. And just reading it puts me in a panic.
Makes me feel nauseous, and scared, and frustrated.
The article goes on to read that “more than two years later, the body-cam footage was released, his mother is suing the school board, the Statesville city government and (the officer) who resigned days after the incident from his job”.
This scenario puts my stomach, my mind, my heart in knots.
This child could speak, and was ignored.
He was verbal, and yet they wouldn’t listen.
What does this mean for a child like mine?
A 5-year-old, non-verbal, autistic, beautiful little boy, just finding his way around in the world.
I pray that we will never have to endure what that poor mother and son did, on that excruciating day, two years ago.
I pray that no one does!
But each time I have to leave my boy’s side, for even a moment, I have those thoughts in the back of my mind:
“Is he being cared for?”
“What if he runs off?”
“Will they catch up to him?”
“Will they even notice?”
“What if they can’t figure out what he needs?”
“What if someone lays a hand on him?”
What if my son has a meltdown, and those surrounding him don’t know how to deescalate; how to actually intervene and HELP him.
I am a believer in people. I look for the good, before the faults.
Maybe even to a fault of my own.
I try not to be the one to be “quick to judge”.
But these are the thoughts that haunt me.
I hope and pray that this world we live in will soon accept more educating on meltdowns, on “behaviors”, on special needs individuals, on families with lengthier requirements, and safety protocols, and IEP’s.
And I pray each day that when I take my little boy to school, therapy, and everywhere, that they know just how important their job is. I pray they are open-minded, and caring, and calm.
And that they’ll know somehow, just how difficult it is for me each time, as my life is placed directly in their hands, when I let go of his.