Adult Safety

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.

ER Follow Up

We are now two days out from the emergency room visit with Brandon. His teacher let me know yesterday that he did well with his bandage. A headache set in at the end of they day and he was telling anyone that would listen “head hurt”. I knew he would not want to miss his outing with Lorie and gave him some Ibuprofen when he got home.

He bounded off the bus as normal and asked about Lorie immediately. He took the ibuprofen without arguing. We have to crush Brandon’s medicine and he let me know that it does not taste good. But he trusts me that it will help his headache.

Waiting for Lorie

Lorie and Brandon’s plan for yesterday was to go to the mall and the cookie store in the mall, because who doesn’t love a good cookie. Brandon wanted to go to Cabelas and we all agreed that he had definitely earned some time at his favorite store.

When they got back, Lorie went home (with a pink cookie because they are the best). Brandon relaxed a bit and we noticed he was starting to pick at the bandage a bit. My personal opinion is that it is starting to itch. We have to keep the bandage on until Wednesday and I am hoping we make it.

Mario Kart always helps.

Brandon played some Mario Kart last night. He really does love that game. It helps him to focus and stay calm. His nighttime routine went well…bath, medicine, reading a Little Critter’s book with Steve.

Bedtime wasn’t as smooth. He was up later than normal with a fair amount of the angry jumping. We talked about bowling with Lorie. We talked about his bandage. We talked about going to school. We talked about Cabelas. And he finally went to sleep around midnight.

I sometimes need reminders that Brandon feels things very differently than I do. The ER trip was traumatic for him. And he just wants life to go back to normal. He doesn’t like this bandage on his eye and doesn’t understand why it is there.

We have to help him through this and that is what we will do. Come on Wednesday! Then the bandage will be gone!

Our ER Visit

Best laid plans sometimes fall through. We had a plan for yesterday, Super Bowl Sunday. Brandon was going to Cabelas with Steve. We were going to cook and clean and watch the game with friends. Most of that happened.

There was no Cabelas yesterday for Brandon. In the morning, Brandon was excited and anxious. He was running through the house, jumping, and perseverating about when Lorie is coming.

I was in the kitchen, Brandon was in the family room. I heard him running and then I heard the thud. I heard Brandon yell out.

He was on the floor and there was blood. I cleaned off the blood and immediately yelled for Steve. We both knew we were headed to the ER for some stitches.

We all managed to get shoes on and into the truck. I sat in the back with Brandon to keep the pile of paper towels I had grabbed on his eye. And to keep him from picking at the inch long gash in his eyebrow. We talked about what was going to happen when we got to the ER.

Waiting rooms are always difficult and yesterday was no different. Brandon was loud. He was scared and really anxious. We gave squeezes and waited.

We were put in a room and within 5 minutes, two nurses were examining Brandon. They listened to Steve and I when we explained his autism. The nurses talked with him about the animals at Cabelas and Mario Kart. Brandon told the nurses he likes the Cheeps and the Cardinals.

Getting an IV started in Brandon has always been difficult. Not yesterday. The nurses distracted him with conversations about things he likes and the IV was in before Brandon knew what was happening.

The Physician Assistant heard Steve and I when we said Brandon can not have Versed (a medication that helps calm someone). Versed does not calm Brandon. It does the opposite. We know this because we have seen it several times. In the past, we have had medical professionals tell us they know better. And we rarely got an apology when it became obvious that we were right.

Not yesterday. She heard us and then gave Brandon something else. It worked like a charm. Six stitches were put in with no problems. They used the dissolvable kind so we don’t have to go back.

When Brandon was coming out of the sedation, the nurses talked with him about the Super Bowl. He gave a quiet “go go go Cheeps” and we knew all was well.

Brandon got to ride in a wheelchair outside while Steve got the truck. Brandon gave high fives to the nurses although they were more like low fives as he was still pretty tired. One of the nurses gave me a hug.

This is how all hospital visits should happen. First thing this morning, I called the hospital and let them know how absolutely pleased we were with our visit. We should always share the good stuff!

When we got home from the hospital, Brandon slept for three hours. He got up, ate four cheese dogs and some ramen noodles. He ate pink cookies and cookie cake. We talked about Lorie coming on Monday.

He hasn’t picked at the water tight bandage they used to cover the stitches. In fact, he hasn’t mentioned his boo boo at all. This is good!

While our weekend plans were disrupted, it all turned out okay. We rolled with it, because that is what we do and Brandon did great.

AND THE CHEEPS WON THE SUPER BOWL!!!!!!! WOO HOO!! HIGH FIVES ALL AROUND!!!

Safety First. And Second. And Third.

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.