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Terri Mauro

Living in Fear of Those Crazy Autism Neighbors

By April 30, 2009

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Another lovely story in the news, just perfect for the end of Autism Awareness Month: Seems a trio of neighbors in a California suburb are so aware of four-year-old Spencer Trussle's autism that they want him, his sister, and his parents placed under what amounts to house arrest. Citing their fear that the preschooler "might come out with a firearm at anytime," these neighbors sued to restrict the Trussle family to their own home and driveway.

I thought maybe this was some sort of overreaction to news stories about violent adults with autism. But according to a 10news.com report, "The Trussles said there were no issues until Gary Trussle confronted another father on the cul de sac whose son was picking on Spencer. It didn't go well." There followed CPS reports and complaints to Gary Trussle's employer, and finally the lawsuit.

So far, the litigious threesome has found little support outside the cul de sac. CPS found the charges ungrounded, Trussle's employer stood up for him, and a judge threw the case out of court. Still, this is the kind of thing parents of children with special needs worry over every day, the need to live in the world, the fear of misjudgment, the risk that advocating for your child will be perceived as a threat. Whether it happens in a restaurant or a church or a classroom, on a city street or in their own backyard, children with autism are considered an alien threat rather than part of the community, and all the Autism Awareness activities in the world don't seem to be changing that.

Pretty gloomy way to end the month.

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April 30, 2009 at 2:07 pm
(1) ginabad says:

That’s disturbing. I’m glad I’m friendly with most of my neighbors.

I DO notice that there are a surprising high number of parents with a “my kids does nothing wrong” policy. Witnessed in my old neighborhood, where a neighbor got “blacklisted” for saying to one of the kids she shouldn’t be playing in the street when cars were coming. The kids answered, “Well YOU should drive AROUND me.” And the parents? Called security. (It was a joke, though, they called security weekly about nonsense like this in a crime-ridden community.)

Bullying? Not my kid. Smart mouth? You must have insulted or yelled at him. Cursing? Really, what did YOU do? It’s ridiculous, children like this have ZERO responsibility for actions, what happens whey they grow up?

May 2, 2009 at 11:52 am
(2) Connor's Mom says:

Wow. What horrible neighbors. I can’t even begin to imagine living next to these awful people.

At least the judge made the neighbors pay the lawyers’ fees for the Trussles. Those people are lucky the Trussles didn’t sue them for more than that– they probably could have won.

This is a fine example of disabilism. Shame on those three.


August 4, 2009 at 2:50 pm
(3) Fielding J. Hurst says:

What is wrong with these people?

Sarah Fisher, Danielle Harway, and Kelly Plaster need a lesson in the Golden Rule.

August 7, 2010 at 6:34 pm
(4) Chris Childress says:

Ok, I have another perspective and I ask your help. I am a father of four young kids with one having Bi-Polar with a possibility of Aspergers. So I have some understanding of children with disabilities. My problem is I have a next door neighbor with 2 autistic kids that are driving me up the wall. One is a highly functioning good kid but his younger brother (12yold) is very loud vocally outside for hours at a time. What he does is spray thier garden hose inside a 20′ X 30′ stockade fenced in area between his legs and yells and waves hands while only wearing loose fitting underpants (sometimes the wife and I have caught him doing this naked while the mom is not around….distubing for my 10 year old daughter and myself) This kid must go through gallons of water at a time. And all this is in a very small close mobile home park. My question is how do we handle this? The police have been involved on several ocassions and we were told the mom is single and she doesnt have much resources for them. What can we do as far as maybe helping to resolve this annoyance or is this a situation that cannot be helped? My wife has approached her on several occasions about the noise and nudity but it seems that it has no effect on her. Is this abuse? Please help! P.S. My wife is a residential counseler for adults with disabilities and she has suggested resources to her but she was uninterested in her sugestions.

August 9, 2010 at 5:47 pm
(5) specialchildren says:

Chris, since this post is more than a year old and people may not see your comment to offer advice, I’ve written a new blog post about it, and you should check there as well as here for responses.

These situations where a child’s behaviors are disruptive to the neighborhood are hard to resolve. If the child in question is sensory-seeking, he’s probably getting the kind of intense input from the hose and the area it’s aimed at that his body needs, and it is no easy task to interrupt and redirect that kind of behavior. Often, if you get the child to stop it, something worse takes its place. As kids get older and stronger, it gets harder for moms to manage physical behavior, and this mom may be dealing with that with a 12-year-old as well. It may be that she doesn’t want to address the problem, or it may be that she’s unhappy with the options before her, which may include a residential placement for the kid.

If you’re at all able to tolerate the behavior, even for a while, that might be the best thing. Remaining available to the mom (and the brother) without forcing confrontation or assistance might be the most useful thing in the long run. Only you know what’s tolerable without making things traumatic for your family.

August 17, 2010 at 8:47 am
(6) melissa culhane says:

I have an autistic son that is non-verbal. He is 10. Sometimes it’s very hard to get to the root of his needs. The only predictable thing about him is his unpredictability. The sounds and gestures he makes all mean something. There’s always a way to lessen a behavior, but there’s not always someone there to carry out the action. It sounds to me like the mother needs some help desperately. Once she is able to keep him busy with other things, that could lessen or even get rid of unwanted behaviors.

March 4, 2011 at 1:54 pm
(7) Christol says:

That is the most disgusting thing I have ever heard. I have an autistic daughter and my neighbor is an ass about her too. Restrict a family to their home because of an autistic child? What is this world coming to? Wow!!! I want to throw up right now.

August 24, 2012 at 6:15 pm
(8) dawn hodgins says:

iam mom 12 yr old daughter 11 yr old autistic son 3 yr son
very busy maybe a friend or some help . i know my autistic son changes intrests frequent loves water noise and spent the day in mud
we put up wind chimes listen to childrens music etc bubbles are a
favorite and very stimulating to him. Maybe offer mom a nice cold drink or something. Two ? I mine entertain and my neighbors happy either . lots of noisy toys indoor here too!

November 25, 2012 at 6:35 pm
(9) Pat says:

My neighbour has two autistic sons. We have years of them stomping around the house – which we don’t mind as they have to play – however they are forever banging on our walls…

We spoke to her after a while and it stopped completely for a while but what we’ve realised is that if she isn’t happy, then the kids knock and bang on our walls.

We have a feeling that there is something not completely right with her. She has virtually stalked my husband for years, the poor guy can’t walk out of the house without her appearing from behind a bush… Or dashing out of the house… We had large plants put in our garden to break her view and raised the wall. She had her garden raised by over a foot so that she could see over.

The minute she sees my husband’s head in the garden she dashes to a basket of “dry” washing and throws it over the line, jumping onto the platform that she built of pebbles just to catch his eye. The next time she sees him she takes the “dry” washing off again and then on again and then off again…

We had our wall raised again and as that’s obviously annoyed her, she’s letting the boys bang again. They stomp and bang for about half an hour in the morning and three and a half hours in the evening. They also scrape what we assume is toys across the walls and drop what sounds like bowling balls down the stairs…

We feel as if she’s holding us to ransom… speak to me… or my children bang…

Ought we to report this behaviour to the social/welfare????

June 15, 2013 at 4:10 pm
(10) Rick King says:

I am a trained special Education instructor, I have worked in Social
Services many years. It is time for the parents to consider residential placement. For this child/or DD adult this inappropriate behavior that could endanger others. Please Know that respite care is available, and that may be an alternative, don’t wait until law enforcement makes choices for you

June 27, 2013 at 2:23 am
(11) Jai Bee says:

Our kids don’t want to “disturb” people and their peace they just don’t know any better. In my child’s case he has severe cognitive impairment, low functioning autism, pica and ADHD. It is miserable for us watching him suffer every day and there are times we would like to be able to just “shut him off” for the sake of our sanity. If the children being accused are anything like mine they can’t be told to bang around or not, they just have good days/weeks/months and bad. We parents are extremely exhausted and people who complain just add more burden to our miserable lives. There are so many hoops to jump through in order to get these children into residential treatment that it almost makes life unbearable and death feels welcoming because of all we deal with on a daily basis. There is no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for us, there is no end to it all, it goes on and on day after day until we get so stressed out by people who don’t understand we eventually die of a heart attack only to burden another family member with our children. I have been trying for the last 5 years to get my 9 year old unsafe child into residential but to no avail, I just keep getting people sent into my home so I have to deal with them as well as my child constantly upsetting the public. The state of Maine will try to keep these children in the home as long as possible even though parents like us are getting evicted from our apartments due to neighbors who may have moved in just two weeks ago. Once someone complains it doesn’t matter that you have lived in your residence with understanding neighbors on both sides of you for the last 4 years. Of course I have called Disability Rights and will be getting a nice settlement out of this, but that’s not making our situation much better. I am excited to be moving forward with the closing on my first home where my child will officially bother and expose himself to a new group of unsuspecting complainers.

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