Safety is always a concern with Brandon. I know we all want our children to be safe, happy, and healthy no matter how old they are. With typical children, the hope is they grow up, make good choices, and live their lives as fully as they can on their own. We hope we have done everything we know to set them up for success.
Having a child with special needs changes that outlook a bit. At least it did for Steve and I. We knew Brandon’s autism was more towards the severe end of the spectrum. We spent many years keeping him safe from himself by using door alarms, hiding knives and scissors, and keeping medications out of his reach.
As Brandon has grown older, he is much better about some aspects of personal safety. He no longer elopes from the house. We haven’t had alarms on our doors for 9-10 years. Brandon knows not to leave the house without someone with him. He can go in the back yard whenever he wants. It is fenced and that is where his swing is.
Occasionally, our other boys have ordered food and not told us. That is when we discovered that Brandon will answer the door if someone knocks or rings the doorbell. Answering the door is not the right way to describe that. He opens the door and then walks away, leaving the door to our home wide open for anyone to just walk right in. Or for our dogs to run right out…which is how the pizza guy got nipped by one of our sweet dogs. Now, if someone orders food, everyone in the house is told and made aware.
We know someone has to be with Brandon when he is eating because of his tendency to choke. We know we have to keep the big knives and scissors hidden so he doesn’t try to cut sores of his body. This seems like the easy stuff now.
Now, I worry about people taking advantage of Brandon. I worry about him trying to sniff the wrong person. The person who a) doesn’t want to be sniffed and b) that person who might smack him for getting too close.
I worry about him being abused physically. There are times still that Brandon will run from us in the grocery store because he wants the red bag of chips right now. I worry that he will knock over an older person or push a younger person out of the way. Those folks won’t know Brandon has autism. And their first reaction may be to strike out at him, without realizing that he meant no harm to them. He just wants the red chips.
I worry about new people spending time with Brandon. He can be challenging and tiresome and repetitive and aggressive and loud. And with his limited communication skills, it is sometimes hard to determine what he is needing. I worry about Brandon not being able to tell us if someone is being mean to him.
I worry about him taking things that don’t belong to him. Josh just reminded of a time when we were at Target. We got home, brought in our bags of goodies, and settled in for our evening. About an hour later, Brandon pulled a bag of Skittles out of his pocket and began eating them. We knew we hadn’t purchased them and asked him where he got them. His response…”Target pocket”.
He stole the Skittles! Steve took him back to Target, explained what happened, paid for the Skittles, and made Brandon apologize. The employees were so very nice about it all. And now, we check his pockets before we leave a store.
I think all parents hope their children grow up and have the right tools to get through life. With Brandon, the tools he needs are a bit different than our other boys. And we have to ensure we stay on top of these things so he will continue to grow. It just seems a bit more complicated now.