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Safety and ASD: Locked Down Like Fort Knox

October 13, 2023

How many locks can one household hold? The answer for my household would take too many fingers and toes!

I can say now after spending years working with locks of all sorts that I used to underestimate a lock’s ability. I would look at the basic use of a lock and my mind would stop there, not taking into consideration the true power it holds. For most, a lock is something found on the door of your home.

Safety and ASD

These door locks are used to keep your home, your valuables, and you safe late at night after the world has gone to bed. Otherwise, they are used to keep other people out of your home when no one is present.

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If you think about it further though, locks are found everywhere. On bank boxes and diaries, bikes and computers, cell phones and cars. Door locks are just what we have socially accepted to be a lock’s main purpose. If you come to my home, you will find locks doing so much more!

Living in a world run by my son’s autism, we have found ourselves locking everything and anything he can use (or come in contact with): the oven, the fridge, the toilet, the cabinets, the doors, the windows, and, in some cases, desk and dresser drawers.

Lately I have found even our Christmas tree has come under attack from his obsessions and compulsive behaviors, its hiding place in the back of the storage closet is no longer keeping it safe from his tiny fingers. We now must lock down the door that holds our year-round holiday gear behind it. I can’t help but laugh and think to myself as I lock the door of how evil those elves must be…and you never know about that Easter bunny…we just better lock this one up!

As it is, my son’s autism is normally “new” to most people as it is not something usually encountered daily or seen as a norm. When people are in my home and notice the uncanny amount of locking mechanisms, we have on everything/everywhere, there is usually a discussion to be had!

We have a phrase that is stated quite often throughout my house by us, our patrons, and our family and friends: “Locked down like Fort Knox!” Every time you need to use something you have to unlock it first. That action in itself can catch anybody off guard. As a grown adult it is hard to retrain the eye to see something in a different light than usual, like a lock on a toilet bowl or dresser drawer.

I have other children and I cannot tell you how many times I have seen them run into my front door! They turn the handle, pull the door, and go to walk…but run right into the door! As they bounce off sighing and giggling to themselves, you can hear them mumble “Locked down like Fort Knox!” Then they look up and release one of the four (on bad days its sometimes all four) locks that help hold my front door closed.

We laugh and we giggle at moments like those because they’re funny and we can’t help but notice the irony. Sometimes I think it is easier to pay attention to those things; if we look at the real reason those locks are placed, we will be reminded of a worrying truth.

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My doors NEED locks: my son is a wanderer and if he got outside unsupervised who knows what could happen. At six years old he is not street trained I don’t even think he understands cars drive down the street we walk across. If a car came driving his direction, I believe he would stop and stare blankly, slowly processing the situation but still not comprehending it enough to move.

My son is also a runner. If he got outside, I don’t know where he would go, but I know for sure he’d run. I have had too many scares where I ended up panting while clasping him tightly after finally catching him and his fast feet. My son is hyperactive and impulsive. He would dart every which way with no pattern, making him hard to trace and hard to keep safe.

My drawers NEED locks. In the kitchen there is a drawer of knives—those are locked. There is a bedroom dresser with a pocketknife and change (he puts it in his mouth and chokes)—that is locked. In the desk drawer there are trinkets small and glass. We lock that one too.

My fridge NEEDS to be locked. Imagine egg cartons full of eggs smashed around the house while you chase the culprit down (he always seems faster in these moments). He has the carton and is playing raw egg Russian roulette!

The glass bottles of Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, jelly, jam, and lemon juice get thrown and smashed, shattered glass covering wherever the episode occurs. A whole bottle of strawberry syrup will be dumped all over the living room floor, where your other older, neurotypical children will giggle over the stain and draw chalk body outlines.

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The list goes on and on—I could go through them all and every day adds more. As we grow, we learn this is the only way. Some of the locks keep our things safe while the other locks keep him safe. It’s babyproofing for a baby who no longer exists—physically. It’s treating my house like a detention facility.

Everything is accounted for and has a place and is always put back. It is giggling at strangers who cannot open my toilet after they excuse themselves and I forget to mention the toilet is locked. It is knowing he is safe and for that I will do anything, even if means being “Locked down like Fort Knox!”

This article was featured in Issue 95 – Managing Autism Together

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