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The situation with the Tot is deteriorating…

running-boy-cartoon-clipartWhile the Tot has developed many communication skills since beginning school (self-contained 3K autism class), he has become more “clingy” and in need of 100% hands-on attention. Basically it takes all of my time, energy, and resources to keep him calm, and prevent major meltdowns, and even then the meltdowns are still frequent.  It appears as if I am his “security” or “transitional item.” He wants me to be within touching distance ever moment he is home, often extending his arms and fingers out toward me saying, “Mommy, I can’t reach you, “ or “Mommy, I need you.”


On the surface this seems very cute, and indeed it is, except when for when I cannot respond IMMEDIATELY and hold onto him, sit with him, and obey his every command. Even a short “one second, Tommy” can cause a explosion. I am dreading summer vacation because I know that I will be able to do NOTHING except sit beside the Tot.  The problem here is that I have three other boys—as you know—and two of them are on the spectrum as well.  They need my attention too!  Then let’s not forget the 8-month-old, despite what the Tot believes, needs to be fed, held when he cries, and have his pampers changed.

We are approaching the last few weeks of school with my anxiety level rising.  The Tot will be receiving extended school year services, but that only consists of two or three, four-day weeks.  I love my Tot, but he is a handful and I am short a few dozen hands!

To make matters worse, and I know this is not the first time I’ve mentioned this, he is a bolting escape artist.  It is very difficult to keep him in the house without constant vigilance, and when he wants OUT I must literally use my body to barricade the door.  Multiple locking mechanisms have failed, or been yanked clear off the walls and door frames.  Plus with the other boys going in and out of the house, the door opens, which many times causes the Tot to bolt! He takes off in public too…but I hoped home would be a little less difficult.

This is what happened yesterday…

What happened yesterday is a perfect example of what I am dealing with at the moment.  My mother was visiting (and making me a birthday cake—gasp!) but was sitting on the back porch.  Baby was crying so I had him in my arms bouncing and pacing in the living room.  The Little Man (10) left to go play outside with his friends, and the Tot saw him go.  He ran to the door, pushed passed the other children and took off running, and screaming.  Now what do I do?  Drop the baby and run??

I screamed for my mother waving furiously through the window at for her to take the baby.  Instead she ran out of the house after the Tot and I was left standing helplessly in the living room.  Problem here of course is that by the time I run into the bedroom with the baby to put him in the a safe place (the crib) the Tot can easily be out in the road, in the creek, or God only knows where! AND that leaves me having to an infant alone in the house while I retrieve the Tot.  Thankfully, Aspie Teen is almost always home with me, and either stays with the baby or chases the Tot, but this situation is getting a bit ridiculous. Then of course, there is the Little Man (10) who loves to be outside with his friends, and continually comes in and out of the house, which causes the Tot to have meltdowns because he cannot go too!

I’m working on some solution ideas, but am soooo not looking forward to the summer months when all four boys will be home 24/7!

Jeannie Davide-Rivera

Jeannie is an award-winning author, the Answers.com Autism Category Expert, contributes to Autism Parenting Magazine, and the Thinking Person's Guide to Autism. She lives in New York with her husband and four sons, on the autism spectrum.


  1. I’d consider one of the herding breeds trained to keep said tot in the yard. Or a mastiff, they have the body mass to prevent escape if they have the training. A working breed would be a decent choice. I was not a runner, but mom shares how dad’s bird dog would retrieve crawling babies back to the blanket, and I can recall the same dog blocking the path from the yard and my turning back. A dog trained for what you need might be particularly helpful.

    • That is exactly what I was thinking. Growing up I always had a dog. My grandmother bred German Shepherds, Pomeranians, and Chihuahuas. My first dog was a German Shepherd pup from one of her litters. That dog was attached to me, and I to her. I know she kept me calm, and I used her for sensory reasons (even though we didn’t know what was happening at the time). Thinking back, I am not surprised at my grandmother’s love for dogs.

  2. Learning friend

    would his ppcd teacher have any ideas? I know if he bolts at school they must be working on it with him because it’s not safe. maybe there’s something you could do at home that would be consistent with school also?

  3. I so understand your situation and I feel for you, you have a runner I have one that will not leave the house hardly any more.
    They are so different but mine is 19 has the tantrums and the meltdowns & he is bigger than me & stronger.
    One thing that I do see is that with age comes some management of control but not enough to be on his own

  4. Okay, this may not help at all, but have you got a good sling for tiny? At his current age a back carry may sooth him AND enable you to deal with TT? It may also help with any anxiety that TT is feeling about you holding his littlest brother? Apologies if this is Grandma/Eggs

    • I have thought about it, but he is sooo big now (8 months and 23 lbs) I think he would break my back in half! LOL The Tot definitely is showing anxiety when I hold the baby, which is something that I did not encounter with my older boys. I think that is mainly because there was more of an age different though…5 years between the two oldest, and then another 6 years until the Tot. Tot was only 2.5 when I had my fourth. I have never had two so close together–it is much more difficult (I think anyway.) When my second boy (now 10) was little he was a runner too and I was terrified to be out alone with the two boys, but at least my oldest was already 7-8 years old by that time and I could run after the little man, and Aspie Teen (not Teen at the time) would pretty much stay put.

      • With a good Sling, you’d probably be okay (as long as it didn’t exacerbate existing conditions). I carried my daughter until aged 3, it does sound as tho he’s not coping with his feelings. I saw your dog appeal – such a good idea! I will share like crazy.

        • I have considered it, but I have degenerative disk disease, which has reeked havoc on my back so it would likely make it worse…although, toting him along my hip isn’t helping much either. LOL

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