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.
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.
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.
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.
Gina mouser2019-12-11 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.
Dee2019-12-11 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.
you're wrong DEE2019-12-11 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.
Kimberly2019-12-12 at 7:30 PM
I couldn’t agree with you more!!!
Rebecca2020-11-23 at 4:20 PM
Wow, I completely agree. I’m still horrified by the people who make money from people in need while harming them ever more. I’m so incredibly sorry this was done to you.
LB2020-01-05 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.
Ashley Danielle Harkness2020-04-09 at 2:28 AM
Wow I’m sorry. As an autism mom to two boys I get how fast it is and what’s funny actually will not funny scary is that my boys also got into melatonin twice and poison control also told me not to worry so I know exactly the way that you feel I felt horrible:( you felt bad enough and then you go try to get help and then they turn their back on you and turn you win that’s disgusting get a new ABA please keep doing a great job you’re fighting the good fight!’
Nidhi2022-04-30 at 2:52 PM
100% agree. Report the BCBA. If this is how the BCBA handled the situation, I honestly don’t know if she has enough experience cause severely autistic kids do this and unfortunately more some times. I’d not work with this company in future.
Louisa2023-05-01 at 2:29 AM
Agree!!!!!! Keep these state ABA “educators” out of your home!!!
Nicolette2019-12-11 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-
JT2019-12-12 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?
Lisa MacDonald2019-12-12 at 7:31 PM
JT – curious – what did they do for the clonidine overdose? That’s a blood pressure med – eeeek!!!
Elizabeth2020-03-04 at 6:50 PM
You are full of it Dee – no family on this forum agrees with you. This was complete harassment and incompetence on part of the therapists. My autistic son is always doing things like Charlie and I am on that kid constantly. The therapist should be reported and you, Dee, should be ashamed of yourself for blantatly lying to these parents about your mandatory reporting responsibilities. You are mandated to report child abuse, not harass families like Charlie’s and making their already challenging day to day lives more difficult for absolutely no reason. Those with autism and their families suffer stigma and judgement enough as it is and then people like Dee come along and try to convince the world that kind of harassment is just mandatory reporting – shame on you.
Christine Belanger2021-05-21 at 1:55 AM
That was something that was not for you to report uwerejuzt told about ithow utterly stupid….
You must not have an autistic child2021-09-30 at 12:20 AM
As someone that’s hesitant to work with ABA’s because of all the curriculum and protocol, this story pushes me further away. My sons therapists know him and our family and they would know this wasn’t neglect as they are parents themselves. This was a personal attack and any therapist close to us would never do this. This was cruel.
Carrollynn Henshaw2019-12-11 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.
Klo72019-12-11 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.
KJV2019-12-12 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.
Caitlyn2019-12-12 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.
Rachel2019-12-12 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
Jill2019-12-13 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!
Nea Hanscomb2019-12-14 at 4:05 AM
I’m with the prior commenters. Dump that agency if you can.
Jenn2019-12-23 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.
Karen van2020-01-01 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?
Lauren2020-01-05 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.
Emma2020-11-14 at 7:29 PM
What did you end up doing about the ABA clinic?
Eileen2020-11-18 at 11:02 PM
We ended up leaving after a few months. It was too hard to rebuild trust.
Kristy2021-04-11 at 4:02 AM
I’m sorry your ABA team didn’t try to help with this issue and instead resorted to CPS. PICA is very common in many kids especially those with ASD so to have a clinical team that would report this issue comes off as if they don’t know much about it & you need to find a team that does or, at the very least, will do their research before taking extreme measures.
KL2021-10-26 at 10:23 PM
Thank you for sharing. I’ve felt like I was one of the only people that something like this has happened to. We had a similar situation where the behavior was something typical for a child with autism and was previously discussed with the BCBA and rbt. They did not even tell me they put in a report and I picked up my child at the end of day like everything was okay. The cases may close and be unfounded but yes the impact and our feelings as parents during this experience don’t just go away. Like you, I ended the relationship with the center because how can you trust these therapists with your child there after that. Hoping to see a reform happen one day with this kind of thing when it comes to mandatory reporting at aba centers. Also an active database of parent reviews of these aba centers in our states because there are barely any to read when you’re trying to find information when choosing one. I know there are good ones and good therapists but then there are ones where they do things like this and also mostly care about billing hours. Thank you for sharing this for other parents to read!
Agii2021-11-21 at 9:22 PM
Hello, checking up 2 years later. Did you stop going to ABA? I hope you did, as ABA is abuse. ABA is conversion therapy for autistics. And I am autistic, so I know more about autism than you do.
Eileen2021-11-30 at 10:46 PM
I’m diagnosed autistic. 6 years of ABA, and still going strong.
Ve2022-06-30 at 9:07 PM
It seems that CPS has a history of focusing on the marginalized: https://www.dissentmagazine.org/online_articles/carceral-logic-child-welfare-dorothy-roberts
Megan2022-12-08 at 12:42 PM
Ik im a little late to the game, but. The bcba should have done an assessment to see if it was appropriate to put Pica into his behavior plan and work on replacing that behavior with something more appropriate to keep him safe instead of calling CPS. THATS WHAT HER JOB IS. Kids put things in their mouths every day, all day long. Yes, we are mandated reporters, but you report things that are harming them. You did your part and removed the items from his reach. You didn’t directly put it in his mouth for fun.
Susan2023-03-16 at 4:13 AM
Personal attacks on parents of autistic kids from ABA companies happen all the time, and we have already experienced four times in the past four years with different companies. A normal conversation between my husband and a female employee would be described as inappropriate remarks from him, and when parents had to step away to use the restroom for a few minutes they would give you a written warning stating that you are not being responsible for your child. The list goes on and by the end of the day, they send you a discharge notice with a list of all your “wrongdoings” so they can leave another already vulnerable family emotionally hurt and go do their business with other families like them. Don’t get me wrong, over the years we did have a few good RBTs and BCBAs who are genuinely interested in helping our kids; the companies will take any accusations from their employees as truth and label us as bad parents. We’ve also submitted reports to their board before but they didn’t take false accusations on parents seriously and just dismissed our case.