Don't jump to conclusions, say some autism experts and clinicians. The boy in question, say the parents, was prone to violent outbursts due to his autism. The large, kennel type cage was a padded, perhaps a safe way ( at least on his parents' minds) to protect the boy and his younger siblings.
Of course, the parents are saying this to investigators, as 40-year -old Loi Vu and his 35-year -wife, Tracy Trang, have been arrested and charged with felony child endangerment and felony false imprisonment. Anaheim police showed up at the house, following a tip to Orange County Child Services.
"Sadly, we do see this" say specialists at the Center for autism and NEURODEVELOPMENTAL Disorders in Santa Ana. Sometimes, parents who have no access to treatment will get overwhelmed. They may see this, as crazy as it may sound, as a safe way to contain a violent child. It speaks more to the lack of availability to treatment than to evil parenting, they add.
"Was the cage to help the child or the parents?" asks one of the family's neighbors, who swears the child never acted up on his daily trips to and from the bus. Another neighbor chimes in, adding that none of the three small children looked abused, or unhappy.
Police are interviewing the couple, and the children with the help of Vietnamese interpreters. Anaheim law enforcement has no record of cages being used as containment for autistic children, but off camera, one officer says he's seen parents of violent autistic children call police for help.
If you want more information about the Centerfor Autosm & NEURODEVELOPMENTAL Disorders, they do have plenty of information, in several languages, at (949) 267-0400 and at thecenter4autism.org
From Sandra Endo:
Child protective services responded to a home here on the 1300 block of south Garrett avenue Tuesday evening to check on the welfare of a child. They were acting on an anonymous tip that an 11 year old autistic boy was being locked up in a cage.
The parents initially wouldn't allow officials in, that's when Anaheim police got involved. After entering the home, officers found a cage, typically used for an animal, with a mattress in it and large enough to stand in.
The boy is unable to communicate and officials say the cage may have been used as a way to control him. it's unclear how long he's been caged. Lt Bob Dunn says it "could be years, months, or several hours".
Two other siblings live in the home as well as another couple who rented a room. Neighbors on the quiet middle class street were upset about the news.
Jarell Casilan lives down the street. He says, "When I walk my dog I would see two kids playing in the yard. Never knew of another 11 year old kid living there. What went through your mind when you heard the news? I was pretty upset. What would drive someone to put a child in a cage. That's so wrong I just felt really bad about it." (David Gerard lives across the street and had no idea about the conditions inside the home.) "I see the kids get on the school bus in the morning. It's always been a quiet home."
The boy and his siblings, a 10-year old boy and an 8-year old girl are in good physical condition and are in protective custody. The parents were arrested on suspicion of felony child endangerment and felony false imprisonment.