This Is What Scares Me Most About School Lockdown Drills And My Autistic Son

by E. Shaklee
Originally Published: 
KatarzynaBialasiewicz / Getty

Once a month like clockwork, I receive a text from my son’s school that they have performed their monthly lockdown drill. This text is to inform me that it is just a drill, and I have no need to be concerned.

But I am concerned. This is just another reminder of how much my son’s autism impacts every part of his life. I am scared shitless because I don’t think he will be protected and safe during a lockdown procedure, and it’s by his own doing.

You see, you hear about teachers ushering their students into a closet or restroom—all sitting silently side by side. You know what my Kiddo is doing during this? Talking—telling the teachers, staff and students that there is going to be a surprise. A combination of my son’s autism and innocence makes him think they are playing a game of hide-and-seek, or that it’s a surprise party and they are going to have fun. He loud-whispers to everyone around him to “Be quiet!” while not picking up on the fact that he himself needs to be quiet in order to save his own life and the lives of others.

And I hate it. I hate that this is part of his educational experience. I hate that autism and his communication and intellectual issues might be yet another safety risk in his life and the lives of those around him. If Kiddo makes a noise, he jeopardizes every person in the classroom closet with him. He won’t mean to do so, but it is the reality of the situation.

My heart broke when his teacher first told me about this. She didn’t seem too fazed by it, and from what I can tell, he’s not the only kid in class who does this. He just has no concept of the situation and no idea that this is a drill about saving his own skin. I was told it was a skill they would work on.

Part of me is angry that this even has to be in my Kiddo’s life. Like what-the-ever-loving fuck is this? Don’t we have enough on our plates? Now I have this concern to worry about as well—that he will potentially give away a hiding spot to those looking to do harm to himself and others. I thought working on life skills meant learning how to live independently, but now they include trying to stay alive.

I hope to hell that I will never even have to think this could be a reality, but I can’t help thinking about it when that text message announcement comes through my phone once a month.

I don’t have a solution. I don’t even have a suggestion. It’s just another complication involved with autism and one that you never even think about it until it’s in front of you.

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