Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Freedom and Child Locks for Mentally-Challenged Adults

 

As many of you know, I am the single father of a mentally-challenged, severely autistic, speech-limited adult man. It should be noted that my son has an extensive history of elopement (running away – see also here, here, and here), self-injurious behavior, and occasional aggression. My son has escaped without detection from every school he has attended, including preschool at the age of three, and with the exception of high school when he was retrieved as he was attempting to leave the campus, which was situated on a hill one block from a toll-road where cars travel sometimes in excess of 65 mph.

At age 10, he escaped from our house and made his way up to the same toll-road when some motorists pulled over and managed to detain him until the authorities arrived. About three months later, he escaped from his caregiver’s home and ran across several streets until he was hit by a two-ton truck that nearly killed him. He spent a week in the hospital and a few days in pediatric ICU. He sustained a broken jaw, contusions, and over the next six months fully recovered. He continued to elope as he got older and has been returned to our home several times in the back of county sheriff’s cars. He is not traffic-safe.

He also occasionally has moments of aggression. These occur when he doesn’t want to take a bath, come downstairs for dinner, or for reasons unknown since his speech disability prevents him from articulating why he might be angry. Over the years and to this day, he has lashed out at those trying to care for him. All that said, he is, for the most part, I would say about 90% of the time, a happy-go-lucky young man who has a vivid imagination and a good sense of humor.

It should be noted that the description of my son and his history is very similar to thousands of mentally-challenged, autistic men and women around the country and around the world.

Whenever I or any of my son’s caregivers or his day program mentor travel in the car with my son, I insist that child locks are in use to prevent my son from exiting the vehicle unexpectedly. My son also sits in the backseat (behind the front passenger’s seat) of cars because he once deliberately broke a caregiver’s windshield and stereo system. It’s safer for both the driver, my son, and other vehicles on the road if there is some distance between him and the driver, the steering wheel, and gearshift. When my son was younger, I neglected to use the child lock one day and while I was driving with him up Interstate 5 near San Juan Capistrano. He opened his car door. I managed to pull over to the shoulder and activate the child lock and then we continued on our way.

It came to my attention yesterday that the ADSAC (Adult Day Services Advisory Committee and Adult Behavior Management Committee) of my county’s Regional Center office here in California has proposed a policy on prohibiting the use of child locks in vehicles when mentally-challenged, special needs adults are being transported in a vehicle by a day program mentor. Regional Center is a nonprofit organization contracted by the State of California to coordinate lifelong services and supports for individuals with developmental disabilities and their families.

During the ADSAC discussion, it was articulated that the use of child locks in cars was a form of restraint and a violation of the mentally-challenged, special needs person’s rights. Apparently at the end of the meeting, it was communicated that “all day programs vendored with” the Regional Center “are being advised not to ‘train’ or implement” child locks “when providing transportation to ANY persons served.”

It’s astonishing and shocking to me that a state-contracted agency tasked with understanding the special needs of mentally-challenged young adults and adults, many of whom have a history of elopement, and/or aggressive behaviors, would want to create conditions where the special needs adult is more likely rather than less likely to harm themselves and others in the community by giving them the means to escape a vehicle based on someone’s assumption that their rights are being violated.

Have hundreds or thousands of special-needs adults complained that their rights are being infringed when child locks are used? Highly unlikely. Or is this just someone’s guess?

The State of California requires by law that passengers wear seatbelts when operating or riding in a motor vehicle. This is a form of restraint mandated by law. It’s done for the safety of the driver and passengers. Over the years, there have been voluminous discussions in the public arena whether seatbelt laws are an infringement of an individual’s rights, but people have come to accept these laws because they understand that the risk for severe injury, ejection from the vehicle, and a higher probability of death would occur if the seatbelt is not worn.

By not using a child-lock when transporting a mentally-challenged adult who likely has a history of elopement, self-injurious or aggressive episodes creates conditions where they can not only harm themselves and others but creates a condition where they know if they take off their seatbelts they can exit the vehicle while it is stopped or in motion and attempt to escape. Certainly, this would diminish the adherence of abiding by the California seatbelt law.

And where does this thinking stop as it applies to mentally-challenged adults who aren’t as cognizant of the potential harm they can do if they have the opportunity to exit a vehicle, to themselves and to other motorists or to others in the community, if they have an opportunity to elope? Is having a day program mentor (caregiver) also a form of restraint and an infringement on the special needs client’s rights? Should mentors restrain their clients from walking across busy streets or should the client have the right to tempt fate, dodge oncoming vehicles and, with a high probability, injure himself or herself?

It seems to me that this is the same sort of thinking has resulted in thousands of mentally-challenged, schizophrenics, drug addicts, and others who inject their veins with heroin (often with city-provided syringes and needles) and who defecate on the sidewalks of many of California’s cities – San Francisco, Los Angeles, Sacramento, and San Diego — because heaven-forbid we infringe upon their rights and give them the care they really need.

Just one more little battle I’m having to deal with (I previously had to deal with representatives from the Superior Court’s public defenders’ office who deliberately perjured themselves in reports to the court regarding fabricating conversations that my son supposedly had with them). For the time being, my Regional Center representative has communicated that my son can still be transported with the child lock engaged — for the time being — and that more discussion is underway internally about the proposed policy. I have threatened to remove my son from the day program if Regional Center is insistent that the new child-unlock policy is to be enforced.

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  1. Juliana Member

    Brian Watt:

    … because heaven-forbid we infringe upon their rights and give them the care they really need.

    This is rampant in society – there is always some bogus reason that we are not allowed to help people – racism, ageism, sexism, trans-and homo-phobia, you name it.

    I am assuming you are your son’s guardian because he is not able to make decisions for himself. In that capacity, does your rights as guardian not trump your son’s rights in this case? It would in most any other situations, right? Financial, medical, legal. And would you be held accountable if you allowed him to play with guns? After all, he has a second amendment right too. Since you are legally responsible for his health and well-being, if he did jump out of a car and get hurt because you chose not to deploy the locks, would the state hold you accountable? Do you think this is just another overreach by California, or is this something that seems to be more widespread by the social justice warriors in the disability rights community?

     

     

    • #1
    • February 20, 2020, at 10:33 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  2. Arahant Member

    Sounds like whoever is making up the rules should be sued, personally, for every incident and all damages.

    • #2
    • February 20, 2020, at 10:40 AM PST
    • 15 likes
  3. Brian Watt Member
    Brian Watt Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Juliana (View Comment):

    Brian Watt:

    … because heaven-forbid we infringe upon their rights and give them the care they really need.

    This is rampant in society – there is always some bogus reason that we are not allowed to help people – racism, ageism, sexism, trans-and homo-phobia, you name it.

    I am assuming you are your son’s guardian because he is not able to make decisions for himself. In that capacity, does your rights as guardian not trump your son’s rights in this case? It would in most any other situations, right? Financial, medical, legal. And would you be held accountable if you allowed him to play with guns? After all, he has a second amendment right too. Since you are legally responsible for his health and well-being, if he did jump out of a car and get hurt because you chose not to deploy the locks, would the state hold you accountable? Do you think this is just another overreach by California, or is this something that seems to be more widespread by the social justice warriors in the disability rights community?

    Yes, I am son’s conservator and am responsible for many of his personal welfare issues. In this case, the policy is being mandated to vendors (in this case his day program) of Regional Center, that’s why, if they decide not to make an exception in my son’s case on a permanent basis, that I will remove my son from the day program altogether.

     

    • #3
    • February 20, 2020, at 10:44 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  4. Doug Watt Moderator

    I’m surprised at this decision, and I wonder if ASDAC had their attorney(s) investigate whether this decision violates state laws concerning operating a motor vehicle. The driver of a vehicle is responsible for the safe operation of a motor vehicle to include the operator’s passengers. This includes the behavior of the passengers in the vehicle.

    • #4
    • February 20, 2020, at 10:47 AM PST
    • 10 likes
  5. Brian Watt Member
    Brian Watt Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Doug Watt (View Comment):

    I’m surprised at this decision, and I wonder if ASDAC had their attorney(s) investigate whether this decision violates state laws concerning operating a motor vehicle. The driver of a vehicle is responsible for the safe operation of a motor vehicle to include the operator’s passengers. This includes the behavior of the passengers in the vehicle.

    I would assume that attorneys were not consulted. But who knows? Perhaps they will be in the near future.

    • #5
    • February 20, 2020, at 10:54 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  6. Susan Quinn Contributor

    I am so sorry, Brian. You have had so much pain and adversity in the raising of your son, particularly due to the stupidity of the state. Someone needs to ask about the mental stability of these people making the laws. Unbelievable. I hope it all works out.

    • #6
    • February 20, 2020, at 12:03 PM PST
    • 6 likes
  7. Brian Watt Member
    Brian Watt Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    I am so sorry, Brian. You have had so much pain and adversity in the raising of your son, particularly due to the stupidity of the state. Someone needs to ask about the mental stability of these people making the laws. Unbelievable. I hope it all works out.

    Thanks…but honestly just more irritating than painful…for the time being.

    • #7
    • February 20, 2020, at 12:21 PM PST
    • 6 likes
  8. Stad Thatcher

    Brian Watt: As many of you know, I am the single-father of a mentally-challenged, severely autistic, speech limited adult man.

    I didn’t know, and I feel for you, man . . .

    • #8
    • February 20, 2020, at 12:27 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  9. Full Size Tabby Member

    Who has “rights” and who doesn’t is getting weirder by the day.

    Our daughter has the rear door child locks engaged on both of their cars to keep their inquisitive, active 2 year old from opening the door at the wrong time. Why shouldn’t the same precaution be normal (and maybe even mandatory) for a person who has the same mental maturity, even if that mind is in a 20-something year old body?

    Yet I, a person of slightly above average intelligence and I think reasonable maturity, am subject to all kinds of restrictions based on some logic that otherwise I might hurt myself or someone else (including the really nutty idea that the hurt might be merely to make them feel bad for a short time). 

    [For several years I owned a retired police car. Like most police cars, the rear doors could not be opened from from inside the car (the metal rod to link the interior door handle to the door latch had been removed and was never replaced). My rear seat passengers found that amusing, and I usually remembered to open the door and let them out.] 

    • #9
    • February 20, 2020, at 12:41 PM PST
    • 9 likes
  10. She Reagan
    She Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I’m so sorry you have to deal with this nonsense, Brian. But color me unsurprised. As a result of caring for my stepson and my mother, I came to dread the words “we need to respect his (or her) lifestyle choice.” As if those who are clearly lacking the mature judgment or mental capacity to make rational choices in their lives fully understand, and are capable of dealing with, the consequences of their actions when things go sideways.

    This seems like such an obvious safety precaution. I can’t see how it can be portrayed as anything other than what Dad called “bleeding hearts and professional do-gooders” being blind to, and heedless of, the very dangerous and likely consequences of such a “well-meaning” policy, when dealing with folks who have the sorts of challenges your son, and many others do.

    • #10
    • February 20, 2020, at 1:27 PM PST
    • 10 likes
  11. J. D. Fitzpatrick Member
    J. D. Fitzpatrick Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Full Size Tabby (View Comment):

    Who has “rights” and who doesn’t is getting weirder by the day.

    Yeah. I thought it was weird enough that baby seals have them but unborn baby humans don’t.

    • #11
    • February 20, 2020, at 6:29 PM PST
    • 12 likes
  12. Skyler Coolidge

    In my experience in the ten years I lived in California, I watched as the legislature would propose laws so absolutely stupid that no right thinking person could ever agree to it. In the ensuing uproar the state would eventually back down and enact instead a really bad law that would never have been enacted were it the first offer, but in comparison to what they first proposed makes everyone sigh in relief.

    I am so glad to have left there 23 years ago.

    • #12
    • February 20, 2020, at 6:57 PM PST
    • 8 likes
  13. JennaStocker Member

    Thank you for fighting for your son’s safety and the safety of caregivers everywhere. In a time when common sense is in short supply, this seems a much needed font.

    • #13
    • February 20, 2020, at 9:37 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  14. The Reticulator Member

    Brian Watt: Have hundreds or thousands of special-needs adults complained that their rights are being infringed when child locks are used? Highly unlikely. Or is this just someone’s guess?

    Don’t they instinctively make a distinction between restraints and infringements by a person’s legal guardian and restraints and infringements by some random government droid? 

    • #14
    • February 20, 2020, at 9:42 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  15. Arahant Member

    The Reticulator (View Comment):
    Don’t they instinctively make a distinction between restraints and infringements by a person’s legal guardian and restraints and infringements by some random government droid? 

    Yes, restraints by random government droids are fine.

    • #15
    • February 21, 2020, at 3:08 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  16. I. M. Fine Coolidge

    Thank you for sharing your important and moving experiences, Brian. I am also a parent of an adult special-needs son and I have endured similar challenges, especially during the last ten years.

    Ben’s most recent episode occurred when he had to change apartments. His state residential service providers insisted that he had to make all his decisions by himself with no input from me — choice of apartment, utility service, internet, even down to the number of keys — and had to apply and financially qualify for all the services by himself…which, of course, is fiscally impossible. It ended up that after they were satisfied Ben had made independent choices, I had to go through the applications myself to financially secure Ben’s independently-made choices.

    My most common response over the years has usually been “There’s got to be a smarter way to accomplish the same results.”

    • #16
    • February 21, 2020, at 5:12 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  17. Stad Thatcher

    J. D. Fitzpatrick (View Comment):

    Full Size Tabby (View Comment):

    Who has “rights” and who doesn’t is getting weirder by the day.

    Yeah. I thought it was weird enough that baby seals have them but unborn baby humans don’t.

    Well put . . .

    • #17
    • February 21, 2020, at 5:45 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  18. Full Size Tabby Member

    I. M. Fine (View Comment):
    Ben’s most recent episode occurred when he had to change apartments. His state residential service providers insisted that he had to make all his decisions by himself with no input from me — choice of apartment, utility service, internet, even down to the number of keys — and had to apply and financially qualify for all the services by himself…which, of course, is fiscally impossible. It ended up that after they were satisfied Ben had made independent choices, I had to go through the applications myself to financially secure Ben’s independently-made choices.

    Huh? When my daughter graduated from a highly ranked university with degrees in mathematics and classics (i.e., she’s smart) she still needed and asked for parental help in navigating the many choices she had to make in connection with her first real job (such as benefits decisions) and new apartment, independent phone plan, her own car insurance, etc. Preventing someone from getting advice and help (input) from parents is most likely to increase stress on a young person having to make unfamiliar decisions, regardless of the young person’s maturity. In fact, aren’t we often told that asking for help when we’re in over our head is a sign of maturity?

    • #18
    • February 21, 2020, at 9:16 AM PST
    • 7 likes
  19. Phil Turmel Coolidge

    My first reaction to this report was “Are those bureaucrats really that stupid?”

    My second reaction was “If I didn’t know better, I’d think they were planning euthanasia of undesirables by indirect methods.”

    My third reaction was “Maybe I don’t know better.”

     

    I’m sorry you are facing a hostile bureaucracy. /:

    • #19
    • February 23, 2020, at 4:50 PM PST
    • 3 likes