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Parents arrested for keeping their son in a dog kennel

A California couple is in custody after authorities discovered they allegedly kept their 11-year-old son with autism in a large dog cage. Dealing with a child with autism is extraordinarily difficult, but is imprisonment an option?

Is a dog cage imprisonment or parents doing their best?

Tracy Trang Lee and Loi Vo, who speak little to no English, allegedly confined their 11-year-old son to a 6 x 6-foot dog kennel in their home. An anonymous tip led authorities to their house, where they found the kennel lined with a mattress and placed in a bedroom. They suspect the boy was locked in when his behavior became violent and out of control due to his autism.

It’s so easy to jump to judgment when you hear a story like this — how can any parent toss his or her kid in a dog cage, for whatever reason? It’s hard to feel sorry for folks who imprison their child. But if you haven’t lived with a child with autism, it can really be difficult to put yourself in these parents’ shoes.

This story is tough for Kimmy, mom of four, to hear. Earlier this year, her 2-year-old daughter was diagnosed with autism, and the plight of this child and his family hits close to home for her. “He wasn’t really living in the cage, but it was used to help control his behavior,” she shares. “I can barely hold Suzume when she has an outburst — I don’t know how they are expected to hold down an 11-year-old and keep him from hurting himself and others. Obviously it’s not ideal but options are limited. I think there is a lot more to the story.”

Autism and falling through the cracks

Yes, there are programs for children with disabilities and their families, but what do you do when you can’t find your way through the red tape? No, you should not imprison your kid in a dog cage. If your child is a danger to himself or others, then he may need medical help or hospitalization, not imprisonment in his own home.

The parents might have simply not cared enough to get him proper treatment, or perhaps they were desperate and didn’t know what else to do. As children grow, they become stronger, and even if their minds don’t mature along with their bodies, it can be harder and harder to maintain control of them in an emotional or violent situation. However, it is frightening to think about what could have happened to this child had an anonymous tipster not gotten wind of the conditions in the home.

Fortunately, the boy was in good health but the parents were not cooperative and initially refused to speak to child protective services when they arrived at the house. Authorities haven’t determined how long he was kept in the cage, but he and the other children in the home were placed in protective custody while the case is investigated.

More on autism

Autism is “Marbelous”
New DSM-5 guidelines for autism diagnosis
Autism rates increase by 30 percent

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