The 9 year old boy who disappeared in New Hampshire last week, initiating a massive search effort on the part of police only to be found under a neighbor's bed, has gone missing. This is the third occurrence this year. Judging from photographs and video from the last time this happened, it appears that he thrives on attention. He was elated when he was found and appeared to enjoy riding in the police car. One could assume that he is doing this for attention.
Everyone is quick to blame the parents. Why aren't they watching him? Why do they let this happen? They need to watch him better. The worst I've heard is that the parents are neglectful, irresponsible, and that DCF should step in. Statements like these are easy to make when you're outside of the situation. I don't believe that this is a case of neglect, nor are the parents irresponsible. I think there's more involved than the media is letting on. I think there may be something awry with this little boy.
That is what is not being addressed: his mental well being. Has he been evaluated by a neurologist or pyschologist? Is there a developmental disorder? If that is the case, he may not fully comprehend the consequences of his actions. It could all be a game to him. He could be playing hide and seek, and searching out the best spot so that no one will know where to find him and he wins. One can see the excitement on his face if you were to look at footage from last week. He was thrilled when he was found, as most children are when they are sought out in this game. Children on the spectrum often have no sense of self preservation, and cannot discern the difference between what is safe and what is dangerous. This could also be the case. To him, he could just be taking a walk. He doesn't understand that going out on his own is not safe and that he could get hurt.
Jordan exhibited similar behavior when she was first diagnosed with ASD. She did not fully grasp the concept that inappropriate behaviors, like screaming for what she wants or throwing things when she's upset, were not acceptable. She also didn't understand that she could get hurt if she went running down the stairs or jumped on her bed. She laughed like it was a big joke, and would continue to push the limits. It took months of extensive therapy and now almost two full years of school to open up her comprehension skills to get her to understand what is right and what is wrong, and what is safe and what is dangerous. Even now, she's still learning and it is often difficult to communicate the difference to her.
If there hasn't been one already, there needs to be an evaluation completed on this child to see if he is on the spectrum. If he is, then the parents need to take steps to keep him safe. The first thing they need to do get educated. They need to get in touch with mental health professionals and Autism experts and learn ways in which they can really help their son. GPS bracelets, home alarms, and constant supervision will not be enough if the parents can't help the child to understand that what he's doing is wrong.
Here's the story:
Remember, there's always help. Here are some websites with more information:
Autism Speaks: http://www.autismspeaks.org/
The Autism Society of America: http://www.autism-society.org/
The Doug Flutie Jr Foundation for Autism: http://www.dougflutiejrfoundation.org/
Children Making Strides: http://www.childrenmakingstrides.com/