“Nothing Bad Happened When Son with Autism…”

Hi Readers! You have been sending in fantastic, “Nothing Bad Happened When My Kid…” stories that show how nice and normal life can be when we quit worrying about extremely  unlikely tragedies every time we consider letting our kids out of our sight. The note below one is a reminder that special needs kids need and deserve that same re-thinking: Maybe they aren’t in constant danger, either! – L.

Dear Free-Range Kids: Nothing bad happened when I let my then 6 year old high functioning autistic son walk around the block by himself (or, as he calls it, The Island).  He came home super excited and proud and made an art book depicting the different experiences he ran into (seeing a yapping chihuahua in a car, a man mowing his lawn, a big stick in the gutter, etc) and then shared it with me.

Also, nothing bad happened when I taught him, at 8, to make his own oatmeal in the microwave.  He’d been making his own breakfast for several years (yogurt, granola and strawberries and bananas cut up with a butter knife) and, the morning after I explained the steps to him, I left him a note with the basic steps outlined as a reminder.  He did a perfect job and I woke up to a note slid under my door of a blissful face saying, “MmmmMmMMM!!”

Also at 8, nothing bad happened to him when I needed to pick something up at a store that I’d ordered online to ship to the store and couldn’t find any parking.  After ten minutes, I drove over to the side of the store, gave him the email saying it was ready for pick-up and told him to go to the cashier and tell them he was picking up the package for his mom.  He was in and out and was very proud that he was able to help! – Equally Proud Mom

Trust me: It’s amazing how fun an independent walk can be.

14 Responses to “Nothing Bad Happened When Son with Autism…”

  1. Natalie May 13, 2013 at 8:31 am #

    My daughter is 6, she could do this, I just never thought of suggesting it for the sake of doing it.
    But why not?
    Thanks for the inspiration!

  2. Tim May 13, 2013 at 9:53 am #

    Well, sure, nothing bad happened to him *then*. But now she’s gone and said something publicly. Now I suspect predators from around the country are flocking to her neighborhood, just waiting for the next time she sends him out alone. Why, there’s probably 15 or 20 hiding behind the mailbox right now. She’s doomed her son for sure! :-)

  3. WendyPinNJ May 13, 2013 at 9:54 am #


    Nothing bad happened when I let my 9-year-old ride his bike a few blocks over to find a friend to play with on a pretty Sunday afternoon. Nothing bad happened when he quickly crossed the somewhat busy (suburban busy, that is) street we live on on his way. Nothing bad happened when he didn’t have a phone to confirm he arrived at his intended destination. Nothing bad happened when I didn’t check in by phone or text with the parents of the child he was going to find. Fun was had by all.

  4. MelMel May 13, 2013 at 10:38 am #

    Something bad did happen when I let my 12yo daughter and 9yo twin daughters walk a mile to the little store…..

    My inlaws called the police and they came to my house to tell me there are predators everywhere and the girls could get hit by a car…

  5. LauraL May 13, 2013 at 10:53 am #

    MelMel, you have GOT to be joking. Is there some way you can turn that around on them and have the police talk to THEM about false reporting? What did you tell the cops, and are you still talking with the IL’s!??

  6. Julie May 13, 2013 at 12:39 pm #

    I let my eight year old and ten year old ride their horses the two miles to grandma’s house. Nothing happens…except Grandma gives them too much sugar and the horses score cookies, too.

  7. lollipoplover May 13, 2013 at 1:51 pm #

    @MelMel- PopPop called the po po?
    That’s insane.

    My inlaws give me grief for some of my choices (my MIL insists that my husband never went to the bathroom by himself until he was 12- totally not true) but never called the police on me! I’m surprised the police took the call without scolding them for ridiculous calls. Kids are very capable (and willing) to walk to a store. Just because they are not chauffered there like happy meals doesn’t make it dangerous.

    To the mom of this boy- great job. Kids who are given the chance to spread their wings and learn independence with tasks they enjoy reap greater rewards then having it always done for them.

  8. Earth.W May 13, 2013 at 3:07 pm #

    An excellent story!

    I see here in Australia, children with special needs being taught from a young age to be independent. They learn how to do things for themselves including how to handle their money and make choices, something we seem keen to deny our “able bodied” children.

  9. Earth.W May 13, 2013 at 3:33 pm #

    MelMel, that is awful. The inlaws sound like a right pain the arse. How did you handle the Police?

    One place I lived, I had a neighbour who kept calling the Police on us when we let them play in the backyard alone, especially when they were naked in the backyard in their infant stages. Police liked to give me the predator thing too and I always asked them for statistics, likelihoods and such. I’m sure they loved me too.

  10. Arlington Mom May 14, 2013 at 10:18 am #

    I soooo want to let my 7 year old ride her bike around the block herself. My worry isn’t her safety, but the nosy neighbors calling the police on me. I’ve had several occasions where moms in vans have stopped and asked if my daughter is ‘with’ me when I’ve let too much of a gap between her and I ON THE SAME BLOCK. Mind you I live in an affluent suburb with almost no crime.

  11. Melmel May 14, 2013 at 1:51 pm #

    What happened… My kids had been asking to walk to the store and I finally decided to let them. I sent them with a cell phone and instructions to call if they had problems. The 2nd time they went, I get a call from a crying kid and overhear my fil yelling at them. He go the phone and yelled at me. I went to get them with the intentions of letting them finish their walk to the store, but my fil scared them so much and they were too upset and just wanted to go home. About 10 min later a cop pulls in the drive way and says my fil call and said I was letting “little kids” walk to the store. I asked the cop who’s decision it was and he said it was mine, but if something happened they could prosecute for neglect or something like that. He left an sat at the main road they were so concerned about to count cars (about 1 per minute). They were walking in the grassy area beside the road and this stretch is only 1/4 of a mile, if that.

    Cop frown upon my decision and let me know that there are child predators everywhere.

    I’m not speaking to my fil for this and may other reasons. Too bad he’s also my neighbor. :(

  12. Melmel May 14, 2013 at 1:53 pm #

    Posted from my phone, sorry about poor spelling and grammar. I promise I’m not a moron…

  13. DH May 15, 2013 at 12:10 pm #

    Yesterday, after a bad afternoon that resulted in both me and my son arriving home angry at one another, I started cooking dinner. My husband had just taken the dog out as we arrived home, and when my son darted out the door (he’s 6, turning 7), I assumed he was going to catch up with his dad and walk.

    About 20 minutes later, my son came back into the house and I realized my husband wasn’t with him. I asked where his dad was, and he announced “I took a walk by myself, because I needed to calm down.” Apparently, he’d intentionally walked around the subdivision the opposite direction from the direction his dad and the dog were walking in. My husband was aware he was out there, but letting him walk on his own.

    And then he apologized for being a little jerk earlier.

  14. OKkids July 12, 2013 at 11:04 am #

    I have a 9 year old with Aspergers. He has been taking himself to the potty in public since he was 6. Now he takes his little sister but only because she won’t go by herself. They both will also go to the fast food counter and order and pay for his own food. (Chick-Fil-A is a great place for learning this skill.) I think you have to take the special issues they have into account but it doesn’t mean that they can’t be independent.