Autism

Our ABA Therapy Center Reported us to CPS

autism autistic therapist aba cps texas babyproof autism mom blog eileen lamb

Autism, mistakes, ABA therapy and CPS

I debated sharing this for obvious reasons, but I believe this will be helpful for many parents. I also know a lot of you follow me for my honesty and vulnerability, so it didn’t feel right keeping this a secret now that it’s behind us.

A few weeks ago, Charlie pushed a chair up to the counter to access our vitamin cabinet, which also has some of the kids’ medicines. He grabbed a bottle of children’s melatonin gummies, opened the child-resistant lid, and ate most of the gummies. We called poison control right away, who told us we needn’t worry—what he ate was not dangerous to his health. Still, as parents, we felt terrible. Sure, Charlie was fine, but what if he’d gotten something worse than melatonin gummies? And what if I hadn’t noticed right away? 

As you may have guessed, the cabinet was not childproofed. Because of what happened, we ordered locks the same day and kept the cabinet sealed with several feet of Charlie-proof Gorilla tape along the edge of the door.

A couple of weeks later, Charlie ate a dog treat. It was in one of those large ceramic jars and was sitting against the back of the kitchen counter against the wall. Again, we took action right away by moving where we store the dog treats to the pantry. The pantry already has a child-proof doorknob cover and self-closing hinges that Willy installed, so it always shuts and locks by itself.

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Mistakes happen and we take full responsibility

Willy and I take full responsibility for the incidents that happened. We’re good, loving parents, but we’re also busy, flawed humans. Raising a severely autistic child who has no sense of danger means you either need to have eyes on them at all times, or have a highly-secured environment if you’re going to, say, step out to go to the bathroom. It only takes a second for something bad to happen. It’s stressful, but it’s our responsibility. We know it. 

We told our team of therapists what had happened because while securing cabinets is our responsibility as parents, we rely on them to help Charlie gain useful and fundamental skills. PICA (eating non-edible items) is common among autistic children, and Charlie doesn’t have the skill-set to discriminate between consuming safe and unsafe items. So we went to our ABA team hoping they could help. 

Instead of support from our BCBA (Board Certified Behavioral Analyst), we heard a knocking at the door a few hours later to announce that because of those two incidents, she filed a report with CPS. No warning, no meeting with us to express concern. She didn’t even check to see if we had hidden the dog treats and secured the cabinet. She reported us to the same agency that takes children away from abusive and neglectful parents.

The next day, a woman from CPS was at our door, interviewing us, photographing dozens of details in our home, talking to Charlie’s therapists, and even talking to and photographing Jude. She saw that our house was safe. We have locks on all dangerous cabinets, drawers, and doors, as well as a custom-built barrier on top of our second-floor half-wall to prevent kids from falling or climbing over. We proactively got this before we even moved in. And that was it. The case was closed.

autism autistic therapist aba cps texas babyproof autism mom blog eileen lamb

Vitamin cabinet

autism autistic therapist aba cps texas babyproof autism mom blog eileen lamb

Pantry

autism autistic therapist aba cps texas babyproof autism mom blog eileen lamb

Front Door

plexiglass wall babyproofing halfwall

Custom-Built barrier for our half wall

autism autistic therapist aba cps texas babyproof autism mom blog eileen lamb

Under the sink

My feelings about this CPS report…

While this is technically behind us, I’m still emotionally affected by the events that took place. It was so hurtful to have someone I trust question my ability to be a good mother. I’m my own worst critic and felt absolutely terrible after both of these incidents. It took courage and trust to admit to Charlie’s therapists that he got into melatonin gummies and dog treats. No one likes to admit they screwed up, but I did because it was the best thing I could do for Charlie and wanted to get help. I put away my ego and fear of judgment and did the vulnerable thing of admitting what happened to his ABA team. Never in a million years would I have thought that they’d report me to CPS. I feel betrayed.

The process brought our family closer together in the end, but I’m not sure yet how this will affect our relationship with Charlie’s therapists moving forward. Will I feel comfortable sharing our future struggles with them? I don’t right now, but I hope I can move past these feelings because the truth is, Charlie needs their expertise. 

As always, in hard times, there are lessons to be learned. This series of events is no exception, and it’s why I’m sharing it with you. 

PSA:

Even if you believe your house to be totally secure, make another pass over to double-check existing child-proofed areas, and to identify new spots that need securing.

autism autistic therapist aba cps texas babyproof autism mom blog eileen lamb

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18 Comments

  • Reply
    Gina mouser
    2019-12-11 at 6:45 AM

    Sorry for what happened to you but I would not continue working with this ABA company because what they did was not only stupid , and was based on lack of Judgment but was unprofessional and showed a lot of ignorance..

    Esperit’s with children with autism, we can never anticipate what the next step is … if the BCBA did not know that simple fact then she shouldn’t be in the business.
    If I were you, I would actually and report her to the BACB board And file a complaint about the company.

  • Reply
    Dee
    2019-12-11 at 7:31 AM

    I’m sorry you had to go through this. Now on the other side. We are mandatory reporters. This is not about you as a parent or your parenting skills. By law we have to report this. The person at CPS then decides whether further action is warranted. Not everyone gets a visit. It’s unfortunate Mt hah you feel attacked as a parent the decision however is not up to me as a provider. We are legally obligated to report certain things. The department takes it further.

    Im sorry it made you upset. Parents with children with ASD can have a very difficult life they have not chosen. I’m sorry if this is the case. We try our best to support you.

    Dee

    • Reply
      you're wrong DEE
      2019-12-11 at 5:06 PM

      Give me a break Dee. Do you know how many kids on the severe end of the spectrum do things such as this? Thousands. And good BCBA’s know when something is mandated to report and what is not. This was not. This is a horrible BCBA and team. The mother should walk away from this team asap because they are unprofessional and clueless. Too many in this industry are ego driven, immature and completely clueless as to what a family lives everyday. This is a good family who did nothing wrong. This is a horrible ABA team who did everything wrong.
      Dee, get out of the industry if this is truly how you feel. BCBA’s such as yourself make life 100% more difficult for good families who are already under unimaginable stress and expectations. And to this mom, PLEASE report your BCBA to the board. Someone like this should not be in the industry.

      • Reply
        Kimberly
        2019-12-12 at 7:30 PM

        I couldn’t agree with you more!!!

      • Reply
        LB
        2020-01-05 at 10:08 PM

        Couldn’t agree more! Reporting he ate melatonin and a dog biscuit? That’s ridiculous. The “mandated reporter” excuse goes a little too far. It is still your judgement whether or not to report and you know very well what those parents will go through when they are nevermind wasted resources on good parents.

    • Reply
      Nicolette
      2019-12-11 at 6:24 PM

      I disagree with what you said, mandatory reporting is for circumstances where the child is left in a harmful situation purposely- how many typical children also get into meds, eat non food items, even get left in hot cars- unintentionally of course. Any parent is at risk of this happening and especially us Asd parents. A sit down with the Bcba might have been a more appropriate action-

    • Reply
      JT
      2019-12-12 at 7:10 PM

      eating vitamin gummies and a dog biscuit is not something that is mandatory to report. my son overdosed accidentally on clonidine at his father’s house and the hospital didn’t even call CPS for that! are you for real lady or gentleman? eating a dog biscuit and melatonin on accident mandate a CPS call?

      • Reply
        Lisa MacDonald
        2019-12-12 at 7:31 PM

        JT – curious – what did they do for the clonidine overdose? That’s a blood pressure med – eeeek!!!

  • Reply
    Carrollynn Henshaw
    2019-12-11 at 10:50 AM

    I would NEVER trust a therapist who heard the details of these incidences and choose to report. Their professional judgement is highly questionable.

  • Reply
    Klo7
    2019-12-11 at 6:35 PM

    @Dee….BS!! You have to report child abuse. An autistic child getting through protective barriers requires ABC analysis and getting to the heart of why the behavior occurred & how to modify it. That is clearly not child abuse and should have NOT been reported. Move away from this ABA center immediately & report the therapist who reported you. This is exactly the same excuse that schools have been using to call the police rather put together & follow a behavior plan. They breached your trust period. And FYI, you are a great parent.

  • Reply
    KJV
    2019-12-12 at 2:00 AM

    This is a huge breach of trust and the situations presented absolutely do not merit a call to CPS. My son has PICA and ASD and the one thing that is the most predictable thing with him is that HE IS UNPREDICTABLE. One day it’s a dog treat the next day he’ll move in the couch cushions. I hope you are able to get past this violation of your trust and confidence bashing. Keep doing what you are doing and search your soul- because you KNOW you are doing the best that is humanly possible. Don’t let anyone suggest differently. We have it hard enough.

  • Reply
    Caitlyn
    2019-12-12 at 4:43 AM

    You are doing an absolutely admirable job. Your honestly is truly amazing. The choice to continue to work with his team is yours and yours only. You are the one that will have to sit with them each session and trust their advice. I think the fact that you are considering still working with them just shows how dedicated you are to your son. You are so strong and I truly am amazed at what you do.

  • Reply
    Rachel
    2019-12-12 at 4:53 AM

    I AM SO SORRY this happened to you. I’m three kids in (ages 7, 4, 1.5) and I haven’t had a kid go into “uncharted” territories. But I think my 1.5 year old will. But this could happen to ANYONE. Seriously! But most of all I’m sorry that they betrayed your trust

  • Reply
    Jill
    2019-12-13 at 5:12 AM

    I do not have an Autistic child, but I do have two RAD kiddos. I watch them 24/7 when they are in my house. I have cameras and alarms in my home. I have three other kiddos. Despite the amount of vigilance, my two RAD kids, have gotten into things. Nothing dangerous, but still stuff they should’ve never gotten into. If you read what it is to be a mandated reporter, it is to report something if you feel there is a dangerous situation. It is not and should never be about covering one’s rear. The effects of being filed on is awful. It affects you in many ways and it never gets stricken from your record. I am a mandated reporter as a CASA and as a foster parent. I would never take it upon myself to file on someone who is doing the best they can. Children get into things they shouldn’t. If you are neglectful, that is an issue. If you are too green to know when the right time is, you should never report someone without serious investigation. How vulnerable of you to share these details in the hope of gaining insight and assistance. They had zero right to file on you, especially without a conversation first! I would find another team in a heartbeat. They filed despite knowing who you are and how you operate as a family. Shame on them!

  • Reply
    Nea Hanscomb
    2019-12-14 at 4:05 AM

    I’m with the prior commenters. Dump that agency if you can.

  • Reply
    Jenn
    2019-12-23 at 8:41 PM

    Our son was injured on a swing. He is 7 and has never had an injury before. He took off the dressing while on his school bus. His teacher thought it was a burn and called CPS. It was unfounded eventually but has left us angry. We love his school otherwise we would have left. I think that providers are overly cautious. I try to tell myself not to take this personal, they just have a responsibility to report.

  • Reply
    Karen van
    2020-01-01 at 1:25 AM

    Fire that company. It is absolute bullcrap that they would call CPS on such a nonissue. Talk about kicking someone when they are down. There is ZERO chance I would continue working with that company. I would be shouting their name from the rooftops to warn other parents. What your son did was typical kid behavior. It’s to be expected with PICA. The motivation of the company to report was what? You spoke up about the events and you told what you did to prevent from happening again. What was the need to report?

  • Reply
    Lauren
    2020-01-05 at 10:10 PM

    My severely autistic daughter at half of a bottle of melatonin and has on a few occupations got her hands on a dog kibble or two. The melatonin is like candy to her- and those child safe tops are not so child safe. I’m so sorry you have to go through this. So much anxiety:(. I would look into a new BCBA. It’s so important to have one you trust and can look for for guidance without judgment.

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