September 27

Burning Down the House


Well this blog post is a little behind schedule.

I’m telling you, it’s not my fault.  I was distracted…

Here at my house, we’re getting ready to launch the Kickstarter for Autism Village at the end of this week. We’ve been planning and working on this for months with the hopes that we will surpass raising enough to do the minimum and instead raise enough money to build many things from our road-map and to endow the service so it can be free for the future.

You can’t imagine how many details there are to preparing to run such a campaign. You see, Kickstarter does not have legions of people standing around waiting for your project to show up so that they can fund it. You have to be prepared to get your project in front of your community. And so for months we’ve been laying the ground work: connecting with autism organizations, bloggers, media folks, celebrities, and planning two amazing free events for our local autism families: and

Because of all this, I set up a place to work in the dining room at the house. This way I could be “dad on duty” and still pick away at the myriad of loose ends for the Kickstarter. And that’s where I was, quietly working away with my older son in the living room working on his Minecraft and Kirby relaxing with his iPad in the master bedroom upstairs, when it happened…

A door slammed open on the second floor.

Kirby shot down the stairs and out the back door.

The smoke alarms in the house went off.

The dogs went nuts.

A smell of acrid burning plastic filled the house.

I rushed upstairs to find black greasy smoke billowing out of the master bedroom where Kirby’s iPad was happily playing out a scene from Thomas the Tank Engine. Upon a quick inspection, there were no flames and the smoke was thinning so I took a moment to get a stool and shutdown the screaming smoke alarms. The dogs stopped howling. Ok now we could figure this out…

I threw open the windows and started to clear the smoke. The entire room was covered, I mean covered, in black greasy soot. On the board on the radiator were three badly melted plastic Thomas engines. There was one on the floor which was no more than a flat mass of black plastic goo. And another on the dresser that was no longer recognizable but had a bit of shape left to it.

Ok so Kirby set five plastic Thomas engines a light with a lighter that he must have spirited from the fireplace. Why?

I’m guessing maybe because that way they were smoking like real steamies? Or maybe he was reproducing an episode from the cartoon or the movies where the Thomas engines were involved in a fire? Who knows, he’s certainly not going to tell me.

So we had a stern talk about fire and danger and we made him look at all of the damage. He was covered in black soot himself so much of this lecture happened while he was in “wash down” getting cleaned up in the shower.

I think it all scared him. I’m hoping that some of my words got through.

But as an autism dad, this is one of the most frustrating things to deal with.

These kids just don’t understand danger or fear the way typical kids do. Some have very high pain thresholds so don’t even learn by experience. The usual teaching moment advice that always comes from typical parents just doesn’t apply.

And in addition to not understanding safety and danger, no they don’t understand why what they did is bad. And sometimes they couldn’t curb their compulsive behavior even if they wanted to anyway.

When I asked Kirby: “why did you light the engines on fire ” he just kept saying “because I’m bad”. It seems what he can do is beat himself up even though he doesn’t understand why.

Well just another day in an autism house. And now we’ve a master bedroom that’s uninhabitable and a lot of soot damage to clean up. Hey, it’s not like we didn’t already have enough to do with our Kickstarter beginning this Saturday!


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