Who will Protect my Child?

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I live in Florida where the Stoneman Douglas school shooting happened. I have four children. Ranging from 22 to 3 years old.

My four year old son Asher has autism. He is high functioning.

Friends and family tell me how lucky he is to be so. I don’t always feel that way.

Asher started in public school pre-school just last October. I was very nervous about the little things.

Will he hit another child? Will he run away from the teacher? Will he take all his clothes off to go to the bathroom?

Those were my greatest fears.

Maybe because I would be embarrassed by his behavior or that he would get suspended from school.

I even worried that he would be abused by the teacher. We all hear the stories on the news about special education students being abused.

Last February, as I was sitting at work, I started receiving phone alerts about a shooting at a Florida high school.

I went home that evening hearing about the horror.

I didn’t sleep that night.

Even though I had older children in public school, and of course worried about their safety, I could still talk with them about protecting themselves in a dangerous situation. We could talk about school shooters and lockdowns.

As I laid in bed, I began to think about how I could teach my autistic son to be safe during a school shooting. The same four year old who on the day of the school shooting refused to listen to his teacher.

He would never understand.

How am I going to keep a child, who runs away from people, to follow directions like, ‘sit, be quiet, don’t move, and hide?’

I just kept envisioning my little boy running into danger (which his teacher and my husband and I have dealt with in past).

I am not writing this to change gun laws or blame anyone or anything, but for a real answer. How do I protect my son?

My child’s teacher has 8 students, all with different special needs, to protect.

Can I expect that she can first off catch my son (he is fast) or that she would sacrifice herself to chase him?

What if he isn’t the only child to run or be loud or have a fit?

It’s taken me many months to realize I can only try to prepare Asher. The rest is up to God.

If I ever expect to lose the fear and sleep all I can do is let go of the fear. Every time I hear a story about the shooting I still tear up…but I am finally sleeping.

Asher and I talk about how to behave in school and listen to the teacher.

I just have to trust that his teachers will protect him best they can.

But I still worry…Who will protect Asher?

Written by, Nina Nelson

I go by Nina. I have four children 22,19, 4 and 3. I am 44 years old and married. We found out Asher had autism last July. After having two grown kids and his little sister only a year younger, I knew something wasn’t right. It showed itself as discipline issues at first and speech issues. Last March I noticed when we were in line to meet Thomas Train he had a meltdown. But once we were on train he was fine. We started to notice other things like he was clumsy. (he fractured his head at 2) He wouldn’t look us in the eyes and he would run away from us. I think I took it better than my husband. I’m always kind of person who takes the thing going on and deals with it. (Break down at later date) We don’t go out very often with the kids. We want to but Asher prefers home. We see some improvements since starting school.

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Kate Swenson

Kate Swenson lives in Minnesota with her husband Jamie, and four children, Cooper, Sawyer, Harbor and Wynnie. Kate launched Finding Cooper's Voice from her couch while her now 11-year-old son Cooper was being diagnosed with autism. Back then it was a place to write. Today it is a living, thriving community of people who want to not only advocate for autism, but also make the world a better place for individuals with disabilities and their families. Her first book, Forever Boy, will be released, April 5, 2022.

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