The parents of two autistic teenagers are accused of keeping them ‘caged’ in their house in unsanitary conditions, according to a March 4th article on LoHud.com. James and Jean Yates were arraigned this morning on two counts each of endangering the welfare of an incompetent person, a misdemeanor. The Yates, who live in Pound Ridge in Westchester County in New York, maintain that the ‘teenagers are perfectly well cared for and that authorities simply overreacted.’
In response to the charge of keeping their youngest son, who is 17, ‘caged,’ James Yates says that the ‘cage’ is ‘actually three soccer nets stitched together and a gate to close off a portion of their living room.’ This was done so his son “doesn’t roam around at night and hurt himself”; he also notes that ‘”This is a soccer net so he wouldn’t climb over it….He’s not strapped in, and is happy as can be.”‘ The Yates’s other autistic son is 19 years old; they also have a third son who is not autistic and who resides outside of New York state.
Authorities and the Yates offering differing accounts of the situation:
Pound Ridge Police Chief David Ryan said the arrests stemmed from a 911 call from a school bus driver, who on Feb. 11 reported an undisclosed medical condition involving the youngest boy, who is 17. Ryan said police, prosecutors and child welfare officials then found unhealthy conditions in the home.
“We are talking a significantly diminished air quality and sanitary condition compared to normal conditions,” said the chief, who would not provide further details.
Jean Yates said the Feb. 11 incident involved her son having a seizure in the driveway as he went to board the Bedford school district bus. She said her sons have had seizures before as a result of their autism, and argued that since it happened in her driveway the driver should have let her handle it herself.
Instead, she recalled, “everyone started running all over the place.”
James Yates said there was garbage piled up inside the home because a dumpster outside was buried in snow and he was forced to keep the trash inside the house. He said that once emergency personnel arrived at the house for the the 911 call, “all of a sudden it became ‘you can’t take care of the kids.’ ”
A judge has issued an order of protection prohibiting them from having any contact with their sons.The LoHud.com article does not mention details about who is presently caring for the Yates’s two sons.
Without knowing details beyond what are described in the LoHud.com article, it’s very hard to ascertain the situation. As the mother of a teenage son on the moderate to severe end of the autism spectrum, I can more then understand the difficulties the Yates have faced in taking care of their son and also their hesitation when others, like the bus drive, offered assistance when one of her sons had a seizure in their driveway. Did the Yates fear that others might feel they were not longer able to take care of their children?
On the other hand, the use of something like soccer nets to ‘contain’ their youngest son is very troubling. It’s a sign that the Yates are in need of more supports and staff in taking care of their son: Why had these not been provided? Had the parents felt they had no choice but to resort to such desperate measures?
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Photo by DRB62.