When caregivers fail – what happens to autism acceptance?

What happens when caregivers of autistic individuals fail to do their jobs? Last week I read the incredibly disturbing story about the young autistic man who attacked a baby while out walking with two ‘carers.’ The Daily Mail reports that the young man involved, clawed at the baby’s face, ‘leaving his face scratched and bloody.’

Janet-da-Silva, the mother of the three-moth-old baby who was attacked told the Daily Mail.

‘Gabriel was screaming out and I saw blood on his face and I started screaming.

‘The other two men then grabbed the guy on either arm and stood him up against a wall. Neither of them said anything to me, I didn’t know who they were or where they were from.

‘It happened so fast I didn’t have time to stop him.’

The 17-year-old involved in the incident attends a special needs school.

Ms da-Silva told the Daily Mail that the two men accompanying the teenager during the supervised trip, gave no explanation to her about who they were and told her that they had to get the young man away from the scene before he became more angry and violent. She then tells that they turned their backs on her.She only found out where they were from when she followed them back to the school.

While reading the article, it was fairly obvious that Ms da-Silva’s main concerns were with the caregivers accompanying the teen.

 ‘I was disgusted by their attitude. I understand people need their freedom and sunshine but they knew the teenager was violent so why was he not walking within the school premises.’

I cannot help but agree with this mother. Why was this young man not properly risk assessed? Why was he put into such a vulnerable situation?

This mother has now been left afraid to go outside, further telling that she just hopes her son will not remember the incident, although she will.

While reading the story many emotions came to mind.

I feel great empathy towards the baby, this mother and the family who are involved. No matter what disability a person may have, if anyone had attacked my sons when they were babies, well  I would have the very same reaction as this mother, who wouldn’t? You fiercely protect your children. What is so disturbing about this story is that this vulnerable young man was put into a position and situation that he should never have be placed in. The correct risk assessments should have been carried out. It seems fairly obvious that this wasn’t the case. As this mother said, her baby could have been blinded. The caregivers are to blame here. I do not know the medical details about tins young man so I cannot fully comment, but it is clear to see that he has been failed  by those who are meant to safeguard and care for him.

The media portrayal of stories such as this, also play a part in the general public’s perception of what autism is and how it affects individuals. Sensationalist headlines, such as this one, were  words such as ‘attacked‘ are used, help to create that climate of fear. What is also clearly evident in this particular report is that the young man involved, is not portrayed as another victim. Only the mother shows understanding under such difficult and traumatic circumstances.

Do incidents and stories like this one undo all the good that has been done for autism acceptance?

Well of course, as a reader knowing very little about autism, one could possibly think that all autistic individuals are violent and cannot be allowed outside with the general public. Incidents like this create fear, and to be honest, before I became the parent of a child with autism, I would have been afraid reading about an incident such as this one, especially with a new baby.  I am now hopefully more knowledgeable about such matters, but many people do still not truly understand what autism is, and how individuals can react in any given situation. This young man for whatever reason, must not like babies and I wonder if he reacted the way he did, because the baby was crying?

I feel great sympathy towards this mother but also towards the young man involved. My son is only a little boy, but in years to come he will be a teenager. He may need supervised outings, with specialist support. But if something like this happened to my son, if he hurt a baby or a child because the caregivers with him failed him, then I would be absolutely heartbroken. He would be perceived as the ‘villain‘ so  to speak by the media and then the general public.

I feel great sympathy for this young man and his family. I hope that the specialist school involved, learn from this incident and that other vulnerable young people are not put into similar situations.

My thoughts are also with this mother, who showed respect for the young man involved in the telling of her her story.

Source: Chris Pleasance on the Mail Online:Autistic teenager on supervised trip attacked sleeping three-month-old baby in his pram and clawed at his face – leaving him bruised and bleeding