18 April 2008

Leashes on kids

I must admit that subscribe to the idea best articulated on the Simpsons, "the leash demeans us both." But last Friday I met a mom who admitted to using a leash for her toddler and if I were her I would probably use one too.

Her child has a neurologic condition that, among other things, leaves her son both developmentally delayed and non-verbal. What this means is that while her son can walk and run and jump, he does not speak and has not yet learned common social cues.

The mom is clearly an involved and attentive mother, but as any mom or even babysitter can attest it is impossible to be watching every second of every day. What happens if she's paying for the groceries or using an ATM and he runs off? He can't say his name or who his mom is. He can't say where he lives or where he last saw his mom and we're not certain he would understand to look where he last saw her or follow a command given over a PA system.

Mom has sewn his name and address into all his clothes, just in case. She can't give him an ID necklace because he could hurt himself with it. He had a bracelet but he broke it - and the one before that. She's saving up to get one in a metal he can't break. What happens when he becomes coordinated enough to undo the clasp on it himself?

I don't think leashes are appropriate for most children, but I understand the trade-off here. I would also rather be the mom who gets stared at than the mom who loses her child.

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