Locking autistics in a filthy basement room can never be called “the least bad solution”

28 Jul

The Washington Post has a series of articles about a pair of twin autistic adults who were found locked in a basement room. Here are the first two:

Rockville, Md., couple charged with abusing twin 22-year-old autistic sons


Rockville autistic twins who were locked in room are moved

From that second article:

The autistic twins who spent nights locked inside a urine-stained room in their parents’ basement have been safely placed in another home under the oversight of social workers, Montgomery County authorities said Tuesday.

The young men, 22 years old, also have undergone medical checkups, which didn’t find signs of further abuse, police said.

Their parents — John and Janice Land — have each been charged with two counts of abuse of vulnerable adults and two counts of false imprisonment. It appears that the authorities’ case against them rests on the conditions that left the two men inside a filthy, dark room with only an old comforter to sleep on. Neither man can communicate verbally. The doors to the room were bolted from the outside, and the basement also was blocked in places by plywood, according to police accounts and fire inspection reports.

“This case is unacceptable,” said Laurie Reyes, a Montgomery police officier who works with autism families. “There are other measures that can be put in place.”

She said that the conditions for the twins were the worst she had ever heard of in the county.

“the worst she had ever heard of in the county”

Not “just” locked in the basement. Squalor. Filth. According to a later article, the house has been condemned.

This inspired the Post and writer Dan Morse to write another article: Coping with adult children’s autism, parents may face ‘least bad’ decisions

Mr. Morse, I appreciate what you are trying to do. We absolutely need better supports for our autistic adults. But framing this story around the actions of these parents is bad. Really bad. I am at a loss for words in describing just how bad.

I’ll pull one sentence out.

But John Land’s father — John Land III — has said the criminal allegations are overstated given the challenge the twins presented.

If you are going to write that, what about a loud rebuttal? How does being disabled make it non criminal to hold these twins in a squalid prison cell? I frankly think the criminal charges are understated, much as this rebuke is extremely understated.

This sort of abuse can never be the “least bad” choice. Not even close.

Please, find a way to write about the challenges faced–from the perspective of the autistics. Find a way to write about autistics as equals, humans who deserve support because we, the non disabled, should live up to our responsibility.

By Matt Carey

7 Responses to “Locking autistics in a filthy basement room can never be called “the least bad solution””

  1. lilady July 29, 2014 at 05:55 #

    What is wrong with these parents and the people who defend them?

    “Least bad solution”. Hardly.

    These young adults were abused and neglected by the two people who should have been their advocates. Just because the abusers are the parents does not excuse their criminal acts. I cannot fathom how the grandparent didn’t intervene on behalf of his grandchildren and had the nerve to defend the parents.

    I hope that the columnist Dan Morse does a followup article about the twins’ situation, now that they are in a safe environment.

  2. Sullivanthepoop July 29, 2014 at 12:41 #

    I might believe that they were caring parents that were just at their wits end if the room was different.

  3. Victoria Gillen July 29, 2014 at 18:26 #

    This is akin to playing “telephone” – the game where a message morphs as it’s passed from one person to the next, with no context. Two people should not not not be locked in a cellar. That being said, let me go on:

    when my family lived in military housing, children’s services was asked to investigate the possibility of removing my children because the day of a housing inspection the oldest had a “blow-out” (T10/11 paraplegia: no control of bowels) and the youngest (we ain’t-kidding ASD, not to be confused with whatever the Ari has) peed all over the hall. Husband was deployed at the time.

    Supports? well, we had respite workers who walked away from the kids because it was the worker’s lunch time. We had others who weren’t allowed on base because they were middle easterners… and no doubt terrorists.

    Residential placement? well, between the Board of Ed and children’s services, the youngest was placed in a residential program. . . you’ve heard of the one’s we were offered: Judge Rottenberg (’nuff said) and the Woods School – which we accepted because it wasn’t JRC, Woods is the place where three kids were killed in a year – the year my son was there. One of those kids was locked in a van at Sesame Place, and baked to death.

    “Least bad solution” is a crappy way to describe what happened to the twins. But…

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) July 29, 2014 at 19:22 #

      I am very sorry you went through this. I don’t see how this is like “telephone” at all. Locked in a room, no furniture, one blanket, no access to a bathroom. This bears no similarity whatsoever to your experience.

      there is no room for “but…”.

      And I think the idea of downplaying the struggles of another disabled person. Mr. Ne’eman is autistic. If you want to be divisive, that’s your choice. It don’t see how it serves our community.

      • Victoria Gillen July 30, 2014 at 18:34 #

        Sullivan – I respect you. I may not have been clear: The Coast Guard said the kids were neglected, in filth… called children’s services, who decided the kids were imprisoned due to anti-eloping bars on windows and chain lock on front door… again, in no way should this be construed as condoning the treatment of the twins. At one point the local news ran a statement from the Commanding Officer – and that statement could have been interpreted as a harbinger of the subject incident. I carry my own experience, which, anecdotally, is not far removed from the experiences of other families. And I have no argument with Ari, specifically – rather with the APA – the latest DSM has proven unarguably divisive. I stand corrected for personalizing – i.e. attaching someone’s name – to illustrate a very real distinction.

  4. Chris July 29, 2014 at 22:20 #

    Today’s NY Times had a more optimistic article on providing for the mental health of care givers:


  1. Autism and wandering | Disabled Psych - August 6, 2014

    […] Center has been abusing and murdering children for years, and it’s paid for with taxes. The Land Twins were locked in the basement of a house that is now condemned. The adoptive parents of a surrogate baby abandoned him, but kept his healthy […]

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