I was asked to give a short talk at my daughter’s residential facility. I will post it here, with names and locations removed.
‘Daughter’ came into our family as a foster child at 7 months old. It was clear even then that her development was not typical. We never hesitated to adopt her; she fit into our family just fine. ‘Daughter’ is very loved by me, her brother, and her extended family. Her quirkiness is endearing to us all – we are all a little quirky, too.
Our County Children’s Services was very helpful in lining up neurologists, orthopedtic specialists, an endocrinologist, an ent…all in an effort to identify what made her ‘different’…but they did not diagnose anything. ‘Daughter’ had physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy, to help her meet all her milestones…they were all late, but she met them.
Speech therapy was particularly helpful. Pronouns were problem for her. And idioms! Until she understood that it was perfectly acceptable to ask, “Is that just an expression?” or “What does that mean?” we stopped using idioms, because ‘Daughter’ takes everything literally.
One milestone was not late – it was actually quite early – Puberty. When puberty came, ‘Daughter’ went from quirky and stubborn, to angry, defiant, and physically violent. We were desperate for help.
There are a couple things that made it difficult for us to get help: In our county, the police avoid arresting teens and adults with developmental, mental or behavioral health issues. So, instead of arresting them, they take them to the hospital.
However, our local children’s hospital does not admit them or refer them to other facilities…they give them shot, or two, of haldol and benadryl to knock them out. Once they have slept it off, the hospital sends them home – stating this is not a health crisis, it’s a chronic behavioral problem.
Can you imagine being punched and bit, having visible injuries, and being asked to take your attacker back home with you?
And it was not only my safety at stake – ‘Daughter’ has no common sense fear. ‘Daughter’ believed that climbing out the second story bathroom window naked, in the winter, was a reasonable way to avoid taking a bath. We needed help – beyond alarms on the interior doors, and my constant vigilance.
Eventually, ‘Daughter’ mouthed off directly to a policeman, and he did arrest her. This was a very good thing. The court ordered a stay at a local facility. There she was diagnosed, finally, as autistic. But after six months at this facility, the counselor took me aside and said, there’s nothing else we can do for her here; she needs to go.