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Challenging Case Blog

Viewpoints from the interdisciplinary leaders in optimal developmental and behavioral health for all children.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Maintaining Safety and Planning for the Future

CASE: Kevin is a 12-year-old boy with autism spectrum disorder, intellectual disability (nonverbal intelligence quotient (IQ) scores in mid-40s), and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder who has been followed by a developmental-behavioral pediatrician (DBP) and a child psychologist for medication and behavioral management since he was 4 years old. Kevin was placed in the care of his great-great-aunt shortly after he turned 2 years of age because of concerns of neglect. She is now his legal guardian.

Kevin is predominately nonverbal but does use a few single words to make requests or label items. He attends a public school and receives full-time special education support. He has a personal care assistant (PCA) who provides in-home support 5 to 6 days/wk for 3 to 4 hours at a time. The PCA is working on toilet training, using a “clock-training” approach, and also takes Kevin outdoors to play or on short outings during her visits. In his free time, Kevin prefers to watch cooking shows on television.

Over the past year, Kevin's behaviors have become more concerning. There have been several episodes of Kevin waking up during the early morning hours and going to the kitchen to “cook.” After one of these episodes, his guardian was not aware that Kevin had woken up until the next morning when she found a concoction of corn starch, coffee grounds, cottage cheese, and powdered drink mix in the blender. Kevin had also woken up during the night and ventured out of the house into the back yard. His guardian had woken up immediately as the alarm system sounded when he opened the outer door from the house to the yard.

A door alarm was added to Kevin's bedroom door so that his guardian would be alerted when he leaves his bedroom; however, the alarm is not used consistently because there are times when the alarm cannot be found at bedtime. Kevin's guardian was able to obtain a Global Positioning System (GPS) device for him to wear on his shoe from the local police department. He wears this without resistance every day.

Kevin's guardian is in her mid-70s, and she has had several health issues over the past 2 to 3 years. There are no other family members who are willing or able to care for Kevin if his guardian were no longer able to. The DBP and child psychologist have encouraged Kevin's guardian to explore long-term residential care options with the state agency that provides support for individuals with intellectual disabilities and with Kevin's insurance provider, but the guardian is very reluctant to do this. She fears that Kevin will be removed from her care or placed in a “home” where someone will “do bad things to him.”

What else would you recommend or actions would you take to support Kevin's guardian in ensuring Kevin's safety and planning for his future care?