Grandfather Could Face Charges After Duct-Taping Autistic Boy to Keep Him From Running into Traffic

May 3, 2018 Updated: September 28, 2018

The child duct-taping incident that grabbed headlines in Tacoma, Washington, is a reminder of the tough choices caregivers have to make when it comes to restraining children with autism.

Police issued an amber alert on Monday, April 30, after video surfaced showing a man using duct tape to restrain a child, before putting him in a car and driving away, KXLY reported.

Fearing a kidnapping, authorities issued the child abduction alert, only to cancel it after it was revealed the boy’s grandfather duct-taped his autistic grandson to reportedly keep him from running out into traffic.

“He was a special needs child who was being restrained by his grandfather,” Puyallup police tweeted, according to MailOnline.

“This was a Tacoma Police incident. Thanks for helping spread the word. Better to be safe than sorry,” police added.

But the incident has brought into the light the controversy about using restraints on children with autism who show signs of violence or doing things that could harm themselves.

Tacoma police said the grandfather may have broken the law.

This Tacoma man’s actions to restrain his autistic grandson sparked an amber alert and may lead to charges brought against him. (Tacoma Police Department / Screengrab via Q13 Fox)

“Yes, this family could be charged with some sort of assault against this child,” said Tacoma Police officer Loretta Cool, shortly after the incident Monday night.

“There’s also the possibility, depending on what the investigation reveals, that maybe assisting them in getting better care for taking care of the child,” she continued.

Calleen Peterson, a mother of an 11-year-old boy with autism, said her son sometimes acts out in ways that are violent.

(Screengrab via Q13 Fox)

“He has a really kind heart and he really, really wants to be good and to be a part of everything and have friends,” Peterson says in the video report.

“This is my daughter’s room,” she says, showing a bedroom door in their home that bears signs of damage.

“It has multiple holes, and multiple divots in it where my son tried to attack her because she had a tablet that he wanted and could not have.”

Families often feel at a loss as to how best to deal with a child who cannot always control their actions.

“He can break my doors, he can hurt us and there’s not a whole lot that we can do, other than just continue trying to advocate for him and all the other families that deal with this,” she said.

Calleen Petersen’s son registers on the autism spectrum. (Screengrab via Q13 Fox)

Petersen shares about her family’s trials and tribulations on a personal blog.

“We aren’t trained in therapy, we aren’t trained in how to do this,” she said. “We’re just parents.”

The grandfather who duct-taped his grandson told officers he was trying to prevent him from running into traffic and hurting himself.

Wandering is another behavior that about half of the children afflicted with autism exhibit, Q13 Fox reported.

Restraints should be used only as a last resort, experts say, if better methods fail. A child who is acting out can be placed alone in a room, for instance, as a way to get them to calm down. Caregivers should also learn proper de-escalation techniques.

Tacoma police told Q13 Fox reporters that the boy from Monday’s incident is no longer in the care of the grandfather who restrained him.

Other family members are looking after the boy.

Investigators are reportedly considering charges of “unlawful imprisonment.”

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