Safety, safety, safety. It is a priority in our house as I am sure it is in everyone’s. We also have to protect Brandon from his worst impulses at all times. What are some of these impulses? Here’s a list of a few:
- If there is a sore on Brandon’s body, he wants to use scissors and/or sharp knives to cut it off.
- If left alone and hungry, Brandon’s choice of snack is a stick of butter. Not put on anything, just the butter. And he doesn’t understand why eating raw bacon is problematic.
- Brandon will eat too fast and choke 2-3 times a year.
- Brandon cannot go into the front yard by himself. He has a history of eloping (running from the house) and can spot a Skittle on the road/ground from 50 yards out.
- We have to keep the child locks on in our cars and let Brandon out whenever we get to where we are going. Again, he is the best Skittle spotter ever.
- Brandon’s school uses a safety harness with him on the bus. He occasionally likes to run to the front of the bus while it is moving to say something to the driver. Why don’t school busses have seat belts???
- Brandon cannot use the microwave independently. Have you ever smelled the smell of cheese crackers with shredded cheese on them that have been cooked for 14 minutes? We have. It isn’t a pleasant smell.
- Medicines have to be kept out of sight. If it smells good or looks like a Skittle, he will eat/drink it.
How do we tackle these issues? How do we keep our son safe from himself? He’s 20 years old and the impulses are still there. Here are just a few of the things we have done and things we currently do. It is all about keeping our son safe.
We keep our sharp knives hidden in a bottom drawer in our kitchen. We no longer have to do this with steak or paring knives, thank heavens. Scissors are kept in my craft closet. Brandon knows they are there. However, the craft closet is perpetually disorganized and he can’t find them.
There are times I complain about the lack of square footage in our house. When I need a break, I hide in my bathroom, because, as I tell my husband, we don’t have a west wing. But there are positives to this small living space we all share. If Brandon is in the kitchen, we know it. And we can supervise his food choices. Same thing with the microwave. We can see him and help him. He puts the food in the microwave and I tell him what numbers to push (35 for cheese crackers and shredded cheese).
If Brandon really likes the food in front of him, he will eat too fast. He has choked 2-3 times per year for the last few years. This, for me, is one of the most terrifying things. I hate it. We all know how to do abdominal thrusts, but we also all know how to tell him to slow down and focus on chewing. He must be monitored when eating. Brandon must eat at the table and cannot take food to his room. And we all know to double check that he has swallowed whatever is in his mouth before he leaves the kitchen.
Brandon can be in our back yard by himself. His swing and mini trampoline are out there and sometimes he just likes to run the length of the yard to expend some energy. But we do have to make sure the gate is secure…just in case.
When Brandon was younger (approximately 2-8 years old), he would elope from the house. No, he wasn’t running away to get married. That is just one definition of the word elope. Another definition is: to slip away, escape. That’s what Brandon use to do. He would be out of the house, down the street, and around the corner before we knew he was gone. And clothing was optional for him at that point.
So we invested in some alarms for all of our doors to the outside. The case manager got us some fancy ones that were quite expensive. Brandon broke those in less than a week. Then we got some from the hardware store that were much cheaper and were really, really loud. Those worked. They didn’t stop Brandon from leaving the house, but they certainly alerted us to the fact that he was gone. He had a bit of a head start, but not nearly as much as before the alarms.
Our neighbors are aware of Brandon and his autism. We have new neighbors moving in today. I went over, introduced myself, and told them about my family. And that Brandon has autism so they may see him in the backyard jumping about like he does. And making the noises that he makes that can be quite loud. And that he is okay when he does this. They were so very understanding and gracious. I wish everyone could be like that.
There are times our local police have been involved. Especially when he was younger. They have always been very supportive and understanding of Brandon’s autism. Thank goodness for that. We have heard the stories of the police and CPS being called to “investigate” allegations of abuse in homes with children with autism. We wanted to be proactive with that. Every couple of years, I call the police department just to make sure they still have our house tagged as a having a person with autism. The fire department knows this, too. And if we see a police officer out and about, we try to introduce Brandon so we can let him know that the men in uniform are okay. We have a sticker on the back of my car that identifies a passenger has autism and may not respond to verbal commands.
We try to give as much information as possible to those who are around Brandon. Because that is how we keep him safe. And that is what helps me sleep at night.