Monday, August 23, 2010

Shaking with Anger and Fear

Bookmark and Share  The following story was posted all over Facebook yesterday.  I avoided reading it because I knew it would be heavy.  I read it this morning...my reaction after reprint.

Reprinted via: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kim-stagliano/post_701_b_685954.html


Autism and Assault in Our Family


Three summers ago, I wrote a post for HuffPo called, "I Will Shake Your Foundation" on the fears my husband Mark and I have about bullying, abuse, neglect, rape and murder of our three defenseless daughters with autism.
Danny Bonaduce, the child star from the seventies TV show "The Partridge Family" had growled, "I will shake your foundation!" in a mock jealous husband rage during his reality TV show, implying he'd rock anyone who approached his wife. I adopted the phrase.
Last week, a 24-year-old special education school bus monitor from Bridgeport, Connecticut was arrested and charged with three counts of assault against a handicapped person and three charges of risk of injury to a minor. That minor is Mark's and my nine-year-old daughter.
The Connecticut Post newspaper has been covering the story Court Case of Woman Accused of Hurting Autistic Child Continued :
According to police, on at least three occasions last April and May, Davila, a monitor on a bus for special needs children for the First Student Bus Co., abused the little girl. Police said there could have been more incidents but only three were captured on the bus's video surveillance camera.

Police said the girl's parents were trying to figure out how their nonverbal daughter kept getting bruises and sprained fingers on her right hand when on May 19 they received a call from the nurse at Frenchtown Elementary School that their daughter had arrived at school that morning crying hysterically. The parents then demanded to see the video from their daughter's school bus.
That video, which also had audio, showed Davila grabbing the girl's hands and the girl then crying out in pain.

Police said they then obtained DVD copies of the bus videos for April 27, April 29 and May 19. On the 27th and the 19th the driver of the bus was Davila's mother. Police said the April 27 video shows Davila, during the bus ride from the school to the girl's home, putting her hands in the area of the girl's hands. With each movement the girl's cries get louder, police said.
On the April 29 video, Davila is heard telling a substitute driver to stop at the girl's home first after they leave the school, according to police. "Because she (the girl) will (obscenity) her pants," she explains, and within minutes of leaving the school the video shows Davila again reaching towards the girl's hands and the girl is heard crying, according to police.

On May 19, the girl is seen on the video boarding the bus with her mother who assists her being seated. When the mother leaves the bus Davila is heard saying, "Goodbye mom," police said. She then touches the girl's head twice and then grabs the girl's right hand and begins to manipulate it as the girl whimpers, according to police.

We've had an epidemic of abuse against people with autism in the last several months.

A mother in Dallas murdered her youngsters. A mother in The Bronx shot and killed her 12-year-old son and herself. A 20-year-old man in Pennsylvania was left to die in a residential school's van on a hot summer day. A father in Canada killed himself and his son in their basement. A socialite in Manhattan plied her son with pills in a luxury hotel until he seized to death. A mother in England jammed caustic cleaning product into her son burning his throat and stomach until he bled to death.

And now our daughter, nine years old, preverbal, 62 pounds soaking wet, sitting quietly on her school bus was (allegedly) assaulted once, twice, thrice, four times and who knows how many more?

Let the foundation shaking begin.
Follow Kim Stagliano on Twitter: www.twitter.com/KimStagliano  
Related post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kim-stagliano/i-will-shake-your-foundat_b_57945.html

Reading this, I start to shake and cry.  I'm full of anger, empathy towards the girl and her family.  How alarming!  These stories are becoming more and more common, along with stories of autistic children wandering and drowning.  Sometimes I have to take a break from this kind of disturbing news.  I can't find a support group fast enough. 

This is why I'm shaking...This morning G came in to greet me as I brushed my teeth.  I sat down to hug him and talk to him.  I noticed his fat lip (incurred when a costume parade ran amok, faster and faster until he fell) from yesterday looks a bit infected and asked him if it hurts.  He said no, walking away, like he didn't hear me.  I brought him close again, and repeated my question.  This time he heard me and still said no.  I then noticed a red mark on his temple and asked him what happened.  He said, "Ummm, somebody hit me."  I calmly asked who.  He replied with a name (a friend of mine), when I repeated the name, he said, "No actually it was (another friend)."  We haven't seen either one of these friends in weeks, and I trust them anyway....Upon looking at it closer during our discussion, I saw that it's a rash, not an injury at all...THIS IS WHY I"M SHAKING!

Making the decision to have a child - It's momentous.
It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.
~ Elizabeth Stone

G seems forever in a state between make-believe and reality.  I wonder if he'll ever get past this to realize/intellectualize what is real.  How can I rely on his reports when he constantly makes up answers and even makes up people?  He's made-up people for the last year.  Sometimes they're friends, sometimes he blames them for something he clearly did, sometimes he plays with them, sometimes he says they hurt/hit him.  His most loyal, loving playmate is his older sister, who he frequently calls one of his made-up names, many times combining the names with hers.  We laugh, and I make jokes about this with the kids, but it really, really really worries me.  Freaks me out.  Is it schizophrenia?  Am I being paranoid to think so?  lol/col (laugh out loud/cry out loud).  Is it merely a normal preschool imaginary friend like so many friends/experts try to tell me, in a "Isn't that precious" tone?  Should I take their word for it, like I did with the autism question?  This too is another of the problems with G appearing normal/high functioning, a "fooler" as the behavioral psychologist classified him.  He craves social interaction, has fleeting eye contact.  People often don't see beyond the adorable funny exterior.  G's socially handicapped because he has serious boundary issues.  He doesn't sense fear, worry, danger. 

And beyond the reality question, more questions...Will I ever be able to let him stay with someone/babysitter/friend without supervision?  Obviously, I have to let go at some point.  Trust the system, the cameras, the strength in numbers theory of having more than one person around to witness anything.  Public restrooms?  He's 4.5 and looks 8.  Already we get comments from women, kids in public restrooms.  G doesn't understand, but I do, my other kids get embarrassed.  When my husband or older son is around, perfect.  But, the majority of time it's only me and him.  Must I wear a sign or explain his presence each time in the restroom?  I totally understand from the other side, wondering why a boy is in the restroom with their young girls.  Unfortunately, not every place has a family bathroom.  This is a question for a forum that I'll have to explore. 

Pain.  Another worry.  G doesn't feel pain at times.  There's certainly a delay - often 30 seconds or longer to feel when he gets hurt.  But many times even if he feels the pain at the time of his injury, he doesn't feel it afterwards.  Other children will pick at a scab or rub a sore spot, or look in a mirror often or some other manifestation of obsessing over pain or seeking sympathy.  Once the initial crying is over, he doesn't acknowledge his pain, only rarely will tell someone about his injury, even when they ask about it.  Even then, it could be a real explanation, could be pulled from his imagination.  YIKES!

Day 2:
How many 4 year olds
do you know who
wouldn't be picking this?
G's clumsy, a part of his sensory issues.  He can be surprisingly athletic, incredibly strong, yet at times conversely the opposite.  I haven't figured out the when and whys yet...about any of his manifestations or issues.  No triggers, only a few dietary triggers.  About clumsy: this week he took a huge nosedive on the rough pebbly blacktop at the park chasing his older brother.  Again, the big delay in reaction, but then he cried for an hour.  Again though, an almost non-existent acknowledgement of the huge scab/scar across his face all week.  He did peel away the scab when it had healed underneath, but even then it could have been prompted by his siblings.  This was a clumsy week.  We went to the zoo and he fell 3 times, skinning other areas of his body on the rough blacktop.  As frequently happens with him, he puts his eyes on the prize and goes for it, before his feet and brain catch up.  But to watch, it always happens in slow motion for me.  I see a fall long before it happens.  But I cannot be at his side always.  He doesn't hear me when he is in that state, even if I scream, even if I repeat.  It's a nightmare as a mom. 

It's beyond a nightmare to put all of these worries together and realize that he's clumsy, has no sense of danger, has no sense of pain, and is not firmly seated in reality.  What can I rely on?  Will I even know if he's abused or hurt?  Would I even be able to believe him if he told me about it?   Terrifying. 

Now, put all of these worries together with a child who is non-verbal, like the mom in the article.  What the hell am I complaining about?   I'm crying again, for all of those parents.  Non-verbal children could be suffering silent torture, not able to express their pain.  Like me, they don't know if their child has realization of danger, wrongdoing, or pain.  Those parents can't even have a conversation with their child, albeit a frustrating one.  I pray for them, for all of our children. 

I'm going to research getting a plastic bubble, comfortably padded for falls.  Or maybe a G-cam to mount on a baseball cap.  How about a cam mounted in his forehead, with a monitor direct to a device for me, wired to his brain signals so that I can be his eyes, ears, reality checker, early warning system.  Or better - a device not wired to me, but independently able to detect danger, so I won't worry so much.  Can we invent that?

The good news:
Because G left it alone,
his boo-boo is healed
on day 4.

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