Assistant Fire Marshall Warns Against Locking Those With Autism in Their Rooms
This story speaks volumes to me, as a parent of a child with special needs, specifically on the Autism Spectrum, you worry. You worry a lot. You worry about their safety, are their needs being met. Are they prone to wandering? If they are, how can you keep them safely at home, especially since there are some children who are like Houdini, here one minute, you turn your back, and they are gone.
I can't imagine the fear of knowing that your child might go wandering, especially in the middle of the night. Add to that a child who may not be able to speak clearly, or at all, and that could be terrifying. It is because of that, that the Minnesota Assistant Fire Marshall is warning against the dangers of locking anyone in their rooms. Even the best of parents, with the best of intentions in mind, may consider installing a lock in order to keep their loved ones in their rooms overnight, for their safety.
Don't do it. Don't install that lock. John Swanson, the parent of a child with autism had these reasons, according to Fox 9:
He’s also an assistant state fire marshal and he’s begging parents to never lock a special needs child or adult in their room or in the house.
The reason is safety: If a fire were to start, everyone inside has less than three minutes to escape before the smoke takes them down. He says locked doors are death traps.
So what should a parent/caregiver do? You are already hyper-vigilant, but, you also need your sleep. You can get an alarm that attaches to the door and door frame, which will go off when the door is opened, which will alert everyone in the house. There is also an app through Vitals App that will help track your loved one with autism, or even dementia.
I do know that with my daughter, it wasn't so much her sneaking out of the house that was the concern, it was her getting up in the middle of the night, and eating anything she could find. I can't begin to count the number of times that I woke up in the morning to find half eaten jars of spaghetti sauce or salsa. If there were cookies, I needed to hide them, otherwise they would be all gone.
This is very similar to the alarm I purchased. If you live in an apartment building, I highly recommend letting your neighbors know that you have it installed and why. They are LOUD and will wake up the neigbors with shared walls. If they know what is going on, they usually are quite understanding if an alarm goes off.
The app did not exist when she was younger, but, it was suggested that I get that door alarm. Relatively inexpensive, I spent about $20, and it worked. If she got up in the middle of the night, she woke me up, I was able to re-direct her back to bed, and knew she was safe. No need to lock the door, and she learned quickly that the alarm hurt her ears. She stayed in her room, unless she was sick, or needed the bathroom.