Just Lightly Tether the Child

I was glad to hear that missing child Joshua Robb was found:

An 8-year-old autistic boy who ran away from school to look for his mom and dad was found in relatively good shape more than 24 hours after he went missing, the Los Angeles Times reported.

"He's drinking water ... eating ... it's elation ... relief," San Bernardino County sheriff's Lt. Rick Ells told reporters.

The boy, Joshua Robb, took off from a playground at his elementary school in Twin Peaks just after 11 a.m. on Monday, outrunning teachers who chased him and vanishing into San Bernardino National Forest, officials said.

"He's rather quick and this kind of behavior where he runs off is typical," the San Bernardino County sheriff's spokeswoman Cindy Bachman told the Associated Press at the time.

Joshua is "severely autistic," officials say, and he doesn't respond well to loud voices or people calling his name...

The article included a troubling aspect of Joshua's home life:

...Joshua's parents had recently lost their house to foreclosure, according to local reports.

He was taken into protective custody after a realtor called social services to report that the boy had been restrained while the family moved out of their home, according to NBC Los Angeles.

"We had to lightly tether him while we were moving stuff out of our house," the father, Ron Robb, said...

"Lightly tether", huh?

When I hear an excuse like that, I immediately imagine other scenarios when a child was "lightly" tethered.

So that one could squeeze in 30 minutes of Farmville?

When one needed an hour nap?

During that fun cookout the family hosted?

When the big game was on Sunday?

I think I can make such a proclamation--having a child on the spectrum, who may or may not respond to his name being called, is unpredictable, and who has running speed similar to my observations of the Roadrunner from the old Looney Tunes cartoon, I believe there is no substitution for "watching" such a child.

Watching means attentive with eyes on the little one.

When I am watching our youngest, I can't be blogging, enjoying the television, napping, or whatever. I best be in the room with him and cognizant of his actions--so that I am not trying to portray, to a national audience, poor parenting involving an inhumane restraint as a viable child-care approach.


Dawn said...

Makes you wonder....and makes one sad- especially as a parent.
Sometimes I wish we all had to get a license before having children....

Stephen Tremp said...

My kids were runners when they were younger. Look away and they were gone. I took constant villigence to watch them and this meant giving up so much of what I normally did for years and decades. But its worth it!

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Miranda Hardy said...

I read about this yesterday. I shook my head, wondering what the neighbors thought when they saw him tied to the "side of the house".

ladyfi said...

At first I was happy he was found... but then sad to hear about his life..

Clarissa Draper said...

I don't know what's worse, having to tie up your child so that he doesn't run away or having the fear that your child ran away and got hit by a car? It's a sad situation no matter how you look at it.

Matthew MacNish said...

Hmm. I can see how maybe if they were poor, and had to move their own things, both parents may have been unable to keep an eye on him while they carried the couch to the moving van. But you don't tie him up, or lock him up, or whatever "lightly tether" means.

Do they seriously not have a single friend who could have helped them load the truck? Or watch their son?

Sue said...

My son also runs away when he's upset, from the time he could walk. I have never, ever, ever tethered or restrained him. UGH.

Abigail said...

I really have to respond to this. I know families with autistic children. Our community recently had one drown. If he had been lightly tethered while his mom moved into their “new” house in their new community (where they did not know anyone who could watch their son), he might be alive today. Ever try to move with a child???? Especially one with a track record for quick getaways???? And, yes, there are times when the parents do NOT know anyone who can help.

Plus, whoever does watch the child HAS to understand autism. I know a parent who cannot find caregivers who understand that her son has absolutely NO sense of danger!! She has to work to support herself and her family and NEEDS someone to make sure her son does not cross the highway. She pulls her hair out over this...worried that her son will be run over.

A lot of children do not do well with change. Autistic children can be even MORE sensitive to that! If TWO teachers could not keep track of him on the playground where it is THEIR JOB...how on earth can two parents who are trying to move out of a home keep track of him????? And don't forget that moving out of a foreclosed home is not a joyful experience. The parents were probably dealing with cloudy emotions on top of everything else.

Autistic children can be very quick and appear very normal. Because autism runs through so many spectrums, it can have many levels of surprises when it comes to behaviours.

There are going to be moments when a parent simply cannot watch their child every single second...and that is all it takes...a few seconds. This kid outran TWO teachers!!!

What if mom has to go to the bathroom and the child is an older boy. Should she take him in with her??? What if he is capable of unlocking the bathroom door and getting out while she is sitting on the toilet?? There ARE times when you simply cannot be with the child. The child's safety is the MOST important thing here!!!!!!!!!!
The parents of autistic children that I now constantly have to put up with judging. Others think all their child needs is more discipline...or a swat on the behind. Yet, those who judge have NEVER actually spent any period of time with the child. I have watched as parents firmly and lovingly tried to calm down a child in a meltdown...a child who is physically pulling away from them. It is not a lack of discipline...the siblings are just fine. These parents already have their hands full. They are tired. Ever have to constantly chase a child? Or constantly strongarm them?? They do NOT need judging and assumptions being made about them when they are doing the best they can to keep their child safe.

It is not right or fair, either, to ASSUME that they are tethering the child other times...or times other than when it is paramount to the safety of the child. What is the alternative to tethering? Perhaps the child could be locked into a room...assuming, of course, they cannot get out the window! But then, someone would probably complain about that, too!

Autism is becoming very widespread and is a fairly recent problem...leading many to look at what is in our food supply and vaccines, etc. for a possible cause. Whatever the cause, most people are unaware of all the ramifications of having an autistic child. It would behoove all of us to learn more about it so that we can lend a helping hand and support rather than criticism.

Abigail said...

And one more thing!

It is one thing to expect to have to watch a younger child...but 8 years old????? One would reasonably expect to NOT have to watch an 8 year old every minute. Unless, of course, that 8 year old is autistic. An 8 year old moves a LOT faster than a 3 or 4 year old. They are also a lot smarter...in spite of the autism. Comparing watching a young child to watching an older child with autism is just SO wrong!!

In fact, it is the older age that also makes is hard to find a good caregiver. It is very difficult for the average caregiver to comprehend needing to watch an older child like that so closely. That is why my girlfriend is always afraid her son will be run over.

Truth be told, the child was probably SAFER tethered to a tree than in the hands of a caregiver who does not understand autism.

Or should the child have had the freedom to leave and drown like the 9 year old boy in our community?

Abigail said...

I also notice some discrepancies. One news report says that two teachers chased him and could not catch him. Another says that they school reported it when they "discovered" he was missing.

?????????? Which is it?

In addition, the comments made by the father make total sense...if you know anything about autism. This child would have NO clue as to why he was taken from his parents. The idea of his running away to find them fits. Also, notice the last comment by the father:
"I'm just hoping that he's safe and OK. He's a bit of a daredevil with the autism," Ron Robb told KTLA. "He doesn't really have any fear."

Well Seasoned Fool said...

I am the parent of two, now adult, autistic children. Until you have been there, don’t be quick to judge. In addition to caring for the child, your still have a life to lead and all the challenges that entails. In addition, you probably have money problems. Handicapped children are expensive in ways you may not appreciate. Sometimes you need a way to keep them safe while you do other things that are vital and necessary. After awhile you find strategies that work. These may be disturbing to the general public. An open minded investigation while probably uncover a loving and caring reason. "Lightly tethered"? Damn right, good for the parents of that child. As to those who are upset; if you don't want to jump in and help, or take on the responsibility yourself, just fuck off.

Slamdunk said...

Thanks for the comments all, and to Abigail and Well Seasoned... for their dissenting opinions.

Also, nice catch Abigail with the confusing reports as to the teachers chasing the child versus just discovering him missing.

I try to read between the lines with stories like this and offer an opinion. Though I am not going to offer a detailed response as to my logic, the linked article contains several indicators of the larger picture.

For me to pretend to walk in everyone's shoes and therefore know everything about everything is foolish. But, these indicators would reveal a much deeper problem than is being reported.

That said, I stand by my critical comments directed at the father's defense of tying up a child (did he use an electrical cord like a crime victim? rope like a dog? metal leg shackles like an inmate? so that furniture can be moved--no matter what exigent circumstances existed at the time of the foreclosure.

I am confident the State removed the child from the home because their was strong evidence that his safety was in question.

Abigail said...

Slam, I appreciate your confidence in child social services. I don't share that confidence. I have had (and seen) some very positive experiences with them, but I have also heard of too many abuses.

Yes, there are many instances where they have saved the lives of children and, sadly, many where they also have contributed to their deaths.

It is not necessarily true that, just because they removed the child, they had good reason to do so. Sometimes, the system fails children and parents. And not all social workers really understand autism. For crying out loud, there are so many aspects of it that the parents who are highly motivated and highly invested in their children do not understand it completely, let alone a social worker who has never had to deal with it personally.

It is funny that we can tether small children with chest harnesses in the shopping mall or place them behind child gates or in playpens. We can lock infants into plastic "play" seats or into swings. And no one thinks anything about it.

Why playpens? Because they keep the child safe while parents do other things. Why tethering in the mall? Because it gives the child a certain amount of freedom while keeping them safe from being lost or snatched. Same thing with strollers and child carriers, although those are also for the convenience of the parent. After all, a child does get pretty heavy.

But then, in reality, ALL of those devices are for the convenience of the parent, are they not? I mean, hey, shouldn't a good parent simply not do anything other than monitor the child? Forget trying to cook or shower or use the bathroom or do anything else that might take their eyes off of their child.

Autistic children are oftentimes just like those infants and toddlers...only with a bigger body and more capabilities. We don't think twice about doing what we need to do to keep small children safe (even when there is some question as to the advisability of the amounts of time those things are used). Why do we judge parents who need to do things to keep older children safe?

Gone is the time when multiple generations often lived under one roof (or at least close by) so that the parents were not the only ones watching the children. Most people nowadays have no idea who their neighbors even are. I would not entrust my child's care to a stranger!

Cont...because it is cutting me off.

Abigail said...

Slam, you wrote:
"That said, I stand by my critical comments directed at the father's defense of tying up a child (did he use an electrical cord like a crime victim? rope like a dog? metal leg shackles like an inmate? so that furniture can be moved--no matter what exigent circumstances existed at the time of the foreclosure."

You ask a lot of questions, but you really have no answers. There is NO indication in either article as to how the child was tethered. Plus, in reality, does it really matter so long as the child was safe and not being hurt? You associate all those things with negative things, but those are not the only uses for them. Sometimes, we need to simply use what is available.

We need to be careful about the filters that each and every one of us have. You are a former police officer. It is natural that you would associate those things as you have.

I see people say that tethering a child in the mall with a chest harness and a "rope" (or whatever they call it) is treating them like a dog. Yet, what I see is a parent who is not locking their child into a stroller where they cannot walk or explore. I see a parent who is giving the child MORE freedom and having some peace of mind.

There are those who consider it horrible to pen a child up in a playpen "like an animal". Yet, I see loving parents who are keeping their child safe and out of the way while they are cooking or using the bathroom or what have you. I have used tethers in malls and playpens and swings, but mostly only when I really needed to ensure my child was safe and there were no other real alternatives. I tried to give as much freedom as I believed was safe at the time.

Was there a problem in this family? I don't know. Maybe there was. But I sure as heck am not going to judge them based on incomplete information from contradictory articles and a lack of understanding what those parents were going through.

There is a scripture that says that love assumes the best. Sadly, we often assume the worst.

We NEED to be aware of our own filters. We NEED to be aware of our own lack of information and understanding...BEFORE we pass possible judgments on others.

Another thing about the school. Wasn't it the school that pointed out that he had a history of breaking away? They knew this and yet could not keep him safely at the school. Two teachers who only had to watch him a SMALL PART of the time. Yet, we will judge the parents for keeping him safely at home...parents who CONSTANTLY have to watch over him.

It says that he was staying with a teacher. Why was that teacher not 100% on top of him...just as the parents are expected to be? Do the teachers not recognize the problems with their own students? Sad to say, based upon experiences that my friend has had...probably not.

I believe that, until proven otherwise, the parents know best. This child is going through trauma that may not even be necessary. How sad. Unless a child's life is in imminent danger, they are not to be removed. So, let me ask some questions, too? Was he emaciated? Was he black and blue? Was there any indication that he was being neglected? I saw nothing in those articles to indicate that and I bet that those things would have been reported if they were there...given the penchant of many journalists to report the shocking and negative. The worst thing they could come up with to say was that he was "lightly tethered"?

Abigail said...

Sorry to keep hitting this, but I, too, read between the lines and my life experience (my filters) see a possible different story here than what is being portrayed.

Thank you for listening. Sorry if I am being a pain. This just hits too close to home when I personally KNOW parents of autistic children and the HUGE struggles they go through to keep their children safe, both the autistic one(s) and the nonautistic ones.

Well Seasoned Fool said...

Error on the side of child safety and welfare is, I agree, a good thing. It may well help the parents look at the situation from a different perspective. It may lead them to resources they didn't know existed.

My short fuse is those holding the assumed moral high ground who ever so clearly identifies the problems but have no solution to offer nor fell the need to have a solution.

I am grateful others are willing to tackle the hard jobs such as social work, police, corrections, probation/parole.

Momma Fargo said...

That thrills me about as much as the kid harnesses I see. What happened to parenting 101? And he is a special needs child. Ugh.

Lisa said...

Well, you certainly opened Pandora's box, didn't you! We have a 7-year-opd autistic child in our extended family and he is more than a handful...4 handfuls plus! I don't know how his parents do it...with two other kids as well. Abigail makes a lot of good points that we non-autistic parents should consider.

What I did find interesting was that he responded to an Ozzy Osbourne song! Somehow, an 8-year old listening to Ozzie seems like a disconnect to me...but you just never know where help will come from sometimes.

Slamdunk said...

@ Abigail: No need to apologize.

I appreciate you offering your view and responding to my comment--you make valid points and I think the discourse has given info for others to consider.