Children on “leashes”

 Oh how terrible! How indecent! He/She is not a dog but a human being with every right to be treated with dignity and respect.  Is a parent that incapable of taking care of their children? Of monitoring their offspring?  Are they on leashes to provide that false sense of security so that the parent can go about their business and neglect that poor kid on a leash?  HE/SHE LOOKS LIKE A DOG!  CAN’T YOU SEE THAT? And YOU look like a very bad parent!

These were all ignorant, judgmental and unfair things I would think when I would see a “child on a leash”.  I had no kids, I knew nothing about these parents or their kids, I did not know their story, I HAD NO BUSINESS making those very unfair and uncalled for assumptions.

Now I have three children and I never had any of them wear a “leash” because until almost four years ago there were two parents to handle the load and go everywhere.  Even now my kids are too old for that (8, 10 and 11).  YOU WOULD THINK!

I have a child diagnosed in the AUTISM spectrum, he is 10 years old.  Now let me tell you a little bit about this wonderful and magnificent God given masterpiece.  HE IS A BOLTER! Anywhere, any time and in the blink of an eye he is gone…  That is quite the threat at Fairs, parks and crowded places.  He could be gone and maybe forever.  I need to protect him.  I need to make sure my child is not forever gone but forever safe.  I could stay at home where I have had to resort to special locks, alarmed doors and windows and sliding door guards to keep him safe.  I could also deprive him and my two other children of all the wonderful things this world has to offer.  I am sure they would all be safe.  But is that quality of life for anyone?

I take them to parks, events, and fairs all by myself and still have never resorted to the monstrosity that is “the leash”.

Back in August 2010 I was going to Disney with them, how exciting!  I could not wait to give them all this wonderful experience.  I could not wait to experience this myself!  I made sure I took many things into consideration when planning this trip.  I packed sunscreen, hats, food, beverages, clothing, toiletries and even a first aid kit. I made sure the hotel had a microwave and a refrigerator and that it was close to the parks.  So basically everything I thought would be necessary to have a great time and keep them safe.  The big question just hounded me now… my son and his bolting at such a large and crowded place that was so far away from home.  His lack of fear, of strangers, water and simply the unknown.  How do I protect him?  How do I give him the freedom to enjoy this wonderful adventure?  A LEASH!!!

For the first four days at Disney I just held his hand.  I was gripping that little hand so hard that I am sure at times it was not only purple but probably numb.  He did not leave my sight for a second.  He went on all the rides we went on. Together as a family we were having fun!

On the last day I felt a little soar from having him pull and tug to go in the direction he wanted to go without a choice but to go where I was taking him and so I decided to give him the two feet freedom that the beautiful Monkey on his back “leash” would allow him to have.  I strapped it on him and held the monkeys tail.  I got the same looks I gave in the past and others looking at the situation from a very understanding point of view.  I even got Kudos for giving my beautiful son the experience and not leaving him at home as many parents taking these vacations do because of the same fear of losing their child with special needs.  I could sit on a bench while he stood two feet in front of me flapping hands in excitement and jumping up and down.  He was free to do that but only because of this monkey on his back.  😉

So to the “leash”, to those that use it and to the children on it I say, MORE POWER TO YOU!  Do what you have to do… Special needs or not. It is definitely not any worse than having a screaming kid that can walk and wants out, sitting, restrained in a stroller.  Provide the freedom to explore safely and before using a stroller with a child that can and wants to walk consider the leash. Only an ignorant person would judge!