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What It’s Like to Parent a Child Who Can Never Be Left Alone

When your baby is born, you promise them the world. You promise to look after them, keep them safe and be there for them. When they are tiny and lying so innocently in your arms fully dependent upon others to meet all their needs, it is so easy to promise them you will never leave them.

The reality though, is that children grow. As they grow they need to learn responsibility, resilience, and independence, and all three of these require periods of not being constantly supervised by a parent. I want to say I never ever set out to be overbearing, or a so-called ‘helicopter parent’ or paranoid in any way.

Unfortunately, life changed the way I parent my son. He has multiple difficulties, and whether I want to or not, he simply can NOT be left unattended at any time, even at age 8.

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Going to the bathroom is such a huge risk I leave the door wide open so I can see him and hear him, or I take him with me. Simple tasks like tidying the kitchen can only be done if I am able to see him completely or he is in the same room as me. If I leave the house for any reason, I have no choice but to take him with me. I can only shower or bathe when he is at school unless there is another adult here to watch his every move. Even popping to the car in my own driveway is a risk I can not take most days.

I do not want to live like this, but I have no choice. I am fully aware how damaging this level of hyper-vigilance is to my son and to myself, but I am actually doing it because there really is no other way. School has to show the same level of vigilance as does his respite center, so it isn’t just me.

He simply can not be left alone, ever.

Here are a few reasons why:

1. He has no language.

That poses huge risks. He can not ask for help, or shout if in danger. He can not ask to reach something that could fall on top of him and he can not tell us where he wants to go. So I have to be with him.

2. He has no concept of danger. 

He would open the house door and stand right in the middle of a motorway and have no idea. He would eat grass or dog feces or climb out a window. He would play with knives or drink bleach. I can not leave him for his own safety.

3. He sensory seeks all the time.

He seeks out water but cannot swim. He seeks out lights…even if these are car headlights. He loves the noise of smashed glass…he climbs…he swings on doors…he bites and kicks…for his own safety and the safety of others, he MUST be supervised.

4. He is violent.

One minute he can be the most loving, gentle child but that can change in a moment and he can attack someone. While I know some of his ‘triggers,’ for the safety of his sister, he cannot be left in a room alone with her or anyone else.

Miriam Gwynne
Miriam Gwynne
Miriam Gwynne lives in Scotland with her husband and 8-year-old twins. Both children have additional needs with Naomi having autism, an eating disorder and anxiety and Isaac having complex autism, neurofibromas type 1, learning difficulties and vision impairment. Isaac is non-verbal. Miriam writes for Huffington Post, Autism Awareness.com, Family Fund, and Firefly as well as her own blog, (www.faithmummy.wordpress.com). Trained as a teacher, Miriam has run her own business, managed a children's play center and now devotes all her time caring for her miracle children.

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