Sunday, August 06, 2006

Parents Behaving Badly

What would Mr. Rogers say?

You know, when I read the first stories about the following incident, I was furious. I imagine I looked like a red-faced cartoon character with steam shooting out of my ears.

And I had tears in my eyes.

After a neighborhood spat, Darren Galbraith hung a sign in his yard directed at his neighbor, whose 13-year-old son has autism and other developmental disabilities.


Despite protests from the community, the police and disability advocates, he refused to take it down.

Carrie Heaton, the boy's mother commented, "They've put up this sign now, that we feel is very discriminatory against my son."

I sat down and wrote an indignant post full of scathing comments such as "flabby bully and high-mileage wife", and noted the misuse of the apostrophe with, "who's the 'retard', you ignorant dipsh*t?"

Obviously, this incident was a huge trigger for me.

I put the post on ice, and walked away from it for a few days.

Since the initial reports came out, additional articles have followed-up on the story and given a more complete--and complex--view of the situation.

My self-righteous fury (which seemed to be so black and white originally) is now muddied down to many shades of gray. I thought about abandoning this subject completely, but it has been weighing on my mind.

It seems as if most of the adults in this boy's life are failing him, and it makes me feel so sad.

In the two years that the Heatons have lived in this Nephi, Utah neighborhood, the police have been called many times.

On one side are multiple neighbors who've complained about an unsupervised boy who throws rocks (at cars and at other children), exposes himself, pokes dogs with sticks, enters their homes uninvited and rummages through their belongings.

On the other is a mother who blames the situation on mean-spirited and bigoted neighbors who are picking on her son for his disabilities.

"People like to use him for a scapegoat. They're always threatening, if he steps on their grass, 'Well, we're calling the cops. We're calling the cops.' You know what? Call the cops."

Just like in her last neighborhood.


What was that?

The police have a different story. Heaton's son does have a history of throwing things at cars and going into other people's homes. He once walked into an elderly woman's bathroom while she was in the bath.

They've been loath to issue any citations because of the boy's disabilities, and have usually left the scene after giving Heaton a good talking-to.

And so the neighbors are beyond frustration, because the behavior is ongoing.

Due to ridicule, condemnation and publicity, the Galbraiths have taken down that horrific sign and social services are finally stepping in.

It's about damn time.

It's easy to be a Monday morning quarterback, but I truly think this boy has been failed by most of the adults in his life. In my opinion, this ugly episode might have been avoided had the police and/or neighbors contacted Child Services after each incident.

A few complaints from specific individuals could possibly be considered to be discrimination (God knows that there is still plenty of prejudice against those with disabilities---even in blogland---where the ignorant pepper their posts with "retard" and worse yet "f*cktard" in attempts to be clever).

But multiple complaints from a whole neighborhood? From two neighborhoods?

I think Ms. Heaton is in deep denial. Or maybe she's simply overwhelmed. Either way, her son is not living in a safe environment. She needs supports to help with him, and maybe this incident will force her to accept them.

I hope she sees this as a wake-up call.

At least for her son's sake, if for nothing else.


Brenda said...

Sadly, there are way too many instances of children not being provided the learning environment that's needed in their homes. It breaks my heart to see so many children raising children who have no idea or concept of adult responsibilities. Respect and acceptance have to be taught in the home.

Tracie said...

It is heartbreaking to see this boy go through this because the people who are supposed to be caring for him, obviously aren't.

I can understand the neighbor's issues with the situation, but I still feel that the sign was taking it way too far, and seemed more malicious than helpful. Helpful would be, like you said, calling the proper authorities each time there was an incident.

It isn't that I want to but my nose into other people's buisness, or decide that someones child needs to be taken away-but if you know there is an obvious problem in care and supervision there is some point where you owe it to the child, or the person who can't speak up for themselves to do something about it.

Jod{i} said...

Oh My Oh My....Oh THis hits me. Hard...As a professional in the field for 20+ yrs...The reaction and actions is Disturbing to me and breaks my heart.
I, along with many have worked our asses "change minds" to see People with DD as human beings...
I am also angered at the family...that with all the resources available for her son, that she is not utilizing then within the best interest of her son.
Which proliferates the stigma. Denial its worst. With the "sick child" "doesnt know better"...Make me want to scream. I am a Behaviorist and all behavior can be changed or modified...when given the right circumstances, the right supports and the right vision.
I hope she sees this too!
It is harder when you live it...if there is no other support...etc..

Great post..Keep us informed?

TxGoodie said...

Lemme tell you how it works in Texas... first off that horrible sign, in my neighborhood, would of been against the deed restrictions and they'd of been made to take it down. (Course that might take awhile depending on the wheels of justice and the dough to grease same.) Then the little old lady in the bathtub would of blown the kid away with her 9 or her shotgun! OR the men in the Hood would of handled the problem especially if they thought their wives, children and mommas were being threatened.

Sometimes folks just fall between the cracks too. If you make too much money, which is, of course, not enough to live on these days, but more than enough to NOT get you help from the government, you are screwed. It's all well and good to talk about help being available, but harder than heck to fit into the criteria of One In Need.

The next best thing is what comes around does indeed go around and that's karma with a capital "K". I hope the publicity will help the family. Publicity is almost as good as compassion sometimes.

parnellpr said...

Here here to all that you said. That woman needs some serious support in order to be able to establish a comfortable environment for her son. Also, it sounds as if she herself needs some educating about her sons condition, if only to help her cope with her son. Finally, sadly I think it might be more common than we think for parents to not fully acknowledge their childrens problems.If they can't understand them how the hell else will anyone else? Pippa

Lisa Goldstein/Kelly Kelly said...

What an sad, but instructive situation. I am so impressed you were able to hold off, learn more and then post. I don't know if I'd have had the same restraint. BUt it made for a fuller, richer picture of the boy's problems, and how he had been failed by the adults in his life, as you said.


KL said... seems to me like the mother is in some extreme denial. Or maybe she is feeling some guilt over her son's "autism and other developmental disabilities."

I sure hope that he will now get the support and help he may need. His mother certainly seems to have failed him.

Mr. Fabulous said...

This is a very sad story all the way around. We can only hope that
now that Child Services have stepped in, the whole mess will have as happy an ending as possible.

Kathy said...

Seeing how you have 1)advocated for the best interest of your own son and 2)taught him right from wrong, I can only imagine how infuriating this must be.

Parents who cannot see when their children are wrong are so frustrating. She is only hurting him, by not realizing that he CAN learn, and should be held accountable for following basic rules of society. What would she do, if one of those neighbors who he has barged in on had a guard dog, or a gun, or a baseball bat?? Heaven forbid, he gets badly hurt, simply because she has not helped him understand right from wrong. She'll be the first one suing the neighbor... she has seriously failed her family, and her neighborhood. Very, very sad.

St Jude said...

How can so many people be blind, deaf and mute?

(If this comment appears twice, I'm sorry, blogger is being naughty again.)

RC said...

this is very interesting...i don't think the sign is the best way to handle the situation, BUT you're right...further information does move the story into a gray zone...especially at the age of would seem to me that as the boy gets older the situation will only get worse without some increased effort on the part of the family.

--RC of

Kate said...

The poor kid - it does sound as though his Mother is failing him, big time.

Annie Drogynous said...

As you well know, autistic children aren't stupid. In fact, quite the oppposite. So yes, his mother has failed him. Autistic children can be taught right from wrong! She could have taught him herself and/or gotten him some help. His behavior emulates any other unsupervised child who thinks he can get away with anything and everything. It's ashame. You're right, social services should have been called in long ago.

DutchBitch said...

That is just... again: no words for it!!!

carmachu said...

Its good job there tex, you didnt shoot from the hip, in a knee jerk reaction over the sign and intitial reports. Sometimes facts arent what they appear. Sadly, the cold hard reality is, the sign got the job done.

It brought attention to the fact the kids negelcted. Throws rocks at cars and other children? Wanders into people's HOMES unannounced?

The mother and other adults in his life are on crack, especially since they left ANOTHER neighborhood because of teh same problems.

As crude as the sign was, it got CPS there, and hopefully the kid will get the help and attention he needs to be a more productive person, despite his autism.

carmachu said...

To all those that think the sign is horrible:

It looks, from the facts posted, 2 whole neighborhoods complained. The police and authories knew what was going on from the complaints(hell the police showed up in some cases, heck the post says the police have history on him).

from teh article:

Neighbor: "The young boy, we got pictures and everything and they would not press charges because he is handicapped."

So I ask you, with all the facts provided:

What other options did the neighbors have? The authorities knew, and did nothing.....

Perhaps, the Disabilty law Center should have spent more time wondering what was going on, rather than saying the nieghborhood needs "sensitivity traning."

Karen said...

It is just terribly sad, all around. You just have to hope someone will finally step in & help- but the fact it took national attention for it to happen is outrageous.

Ma Titwonky said...

Very well said! Bravo for not letting this one go but pursuing it to the full story. Especially because in this case, outrage at the neighbors won't solve a single issue involved with this poor boy.

Stinkypaw said...

That kid is in serious need of help and his mother should wake up to her son's "real" situation!

I totally agree with you that the adults in this kid's life have totally let him down. That is sad. The system seriously failed him...

lildb said...

it *is* easy to be a monday morning quarterback.

why is it so damn easy? to put on the judgey pants? I hate those pants. I've tried to burn 'em about a frillion separate ways. but every single time I open my pants drawer, there they sit, all brazen and shiny, tucked underneath all sneaky, but still. freaking. there.

and that kid's story is heartbreaking, no matter how ya slice it.

Lightning Bug's Butt said...

Sad, sad story.

Mia said...

Sad all the way around.

abfh said...

There may be another side to this story. Autistic kids, especially if they look "retarded," are often tormented by neighborhood bullies. If this boy is throwing rocks at other children, it's likely that he has been the target of a lot of rocks himself. The bullies probably think it's great fun to throw rocks at the "retard" every time they see him outside and then, if any adults come along, to claim that they were just minding their own business when the "retard" threw rocks at them for no reason.

The boy probably can't speak well enough to explain what is going on, so the police and neighbors just assume that the bullies are telling the truth.

It's also possible that the boy has been running into neighbors' houses to escape from groups of bullies who were chasing him.

Yes, the parents need to keep their son better supervised, I'm not disagreeing with that, but an autistic kid ought to be able to go outside and play on his own street without having to fear for his life.

Attila The Mom said...

Abfh---You're absolutely right! My greatest hope is that with some kind of intervention they'll get at the truth, and be able to sort it out.

This entire episode is just mind-boggling and ugly. I can't believe that got as far as it did. :-(

Miss Keeks said...

One would think that the neighbors would have tried something different before putting up that horrible sign.

This story reminds me of my long-standing opinion that many people aren't responsible enough to parent a plant, let alone another human being.

carmachu said...


your reaching beyond the facts. I could be the kid is evil as well as mentally handicap.

TWO whole neighborhoods of bullies?

carmachu said...

Miss keeks:

You would think that, wouldnt you. But I'll ask the same question again:

what do you do when the authories fail to act in the matter or turn a blind eye. Attilla posted that the POLICE were aware of the child's activities, YET were loath to issue citations due to his hanidcap.

And much like any intervention at times, a paperwork trail is essential in that endevor. If you have a problem with a neighbor(or have an abusive spouse or pick something), but fail to file a report, there's nothing there for OTHER authories to act upon. As far as CPS or other agencies are concerned, there isnt any past actions they can build a case on. Now granted, agencies can do research, but that takes time....

abfh said...

Carmachu wrote:

TWO whole neighborhoods of bullies?

Yes, it happens. Some kids are bullied wherever they go, just because they look "weird." There are heartbreaking stories on the autism forums. Some families have moved several times to try to find a safer neighborhood and school for their child, only to find that as soon as they have moved, the bullying starts all over again with a new group of children.

michellesarah said...

If that child can wander into neighbours places unsupervised then he's obviously vunerable to wandering into predator's places too. It was an extreme thing for the neighbours to do, but it appears that eventually he got the help he needed.

Denial indeed!