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Police: Autistic boy, 11, kept in cage

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) - The parents of a severely autistic boy were arrested after investigators determined the 11-year-old had been kept in a large metal cage, possibly to control his violent outbursts, authorities said Wednesday.

The cage - similar to an extra-large dog kennel - was found in the home with a mattress and other bedding inside, Anaheim police Lt. Bob Dunn said. It was roughly 6 feet tall, 5 feet long and 3 or 4 feet wide with room to stand.

The boy was not inside, but family members gave police varying accounts of how long he had been kept in it, ranging from hours to days, Dunn said.

"It appeared that as he grew older his episodes of violence and outbursts were increasing and perhaps the parents utilized the cage as a tool to modify that and to contain him when that was happening," he said.

"Obviously, putting your child in a locked cage, even if you're desperate for help, is not the best course of action," Dunn said, noting there are resources available for families in that kind of situation.

Officers went to the Anaheim home and arrested the parents Tuesday evening after an anonymous tipster called Orange County Child Protective Services.

The boy's father, Loi Vu, 40, and his mother, Tracy Trang Le, 35, were arrested on suspicion of felony child endangerment and false imprisonment.

The child was well-nourished and appeared otherwise healthy and his two siblings, ages 8 and 10, were also unharmed. They were all placed in protective custody, Dunn said.

The parents speak limited English, and investigators were using translators to sort out details in the case.

Other relatives live in the home, and one room was rented to another family with children.

It wasn't immediately known if the boy's parents had an attorney. They had not made a court appearance and had not yet been formally charged.

An arraignment will occur within the next two days if prosecutors take the case, Dunn said.

There have been other instances of parents confining their children to deal with behavioral problems.

Last year, a mother in Orange County was arrested for chaining up her child while she was at work because he had been hanging out with a gang and she had no one to watch him in the evenings. Prosecutors dropped charges against her last month.

Two years ago, a California school district placed a special needs teacher on leave while it investigated a mother's claim that her 10-year-old autistic son was put in a cardboard box during class.

The use of boxes to control autistic children has caused flaps at schools around the nation in recent years, from West Virginia to Wisconsin to Washington.

Parents Accused of Keeping Son with Autism in a Cage

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savingdolphins July 02 2014 at 3:31 PM

Hospitals do it all the time, but it's not open like a cage it's a room with no windows but a tiny one on door. Mental ill patients stay in it for days at a time too. It appears that the child was well cared for in other ways, What is a parent to do ? maybe allow the temper of the one child to hurt the other children? Put the child away in a state hospital where they are being taken care of worse? perhaps it's not at all what it appears.

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10 replies
Carol July 02 2014 at 3:35 PM

If this boy was a danger to himself and others, and this cage kept everyone safe, than I'm not sure if that was so terrible. The boy was otherwise clean, well fed and not physically abuse. Not enough information to make a judgment. At least they were trying to care for him, instead of shipping him off to be confined someplace else.

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2 replies
vafilec_39 Carol July 02 2014 at 4:13 PM

Don't you find it amazing that they bathed him & fed him and the boy did nothing to them while they were doing that. Seems they were safe. They did not want to be bothered with what Autistic children do, like keep him in the same room you are in....if you go to the bathroom.....you take him with you. Seems to be they did not care to watch him close so he did not hurt himself. They actually retarded that child.

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4 replies
ameliabelladonna Carol July 02 2014 at 5:54 PM

Rob, watch that show This Is Autism....it really will open your eyes how difficult it is, I can understand wanting to make sure the kid doesn't hurt them or the other kids. Giving them to the state??? Well, we've heard the horror stories there.....maybe do some research before you insult others...

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brandma6585 July 02 2014 at 3:50 PM

So what are parents suppose to do with a child like this? He is otherwise taken care of. An aquaintance has a 7 yr old who is very violent (aspergers) and she fears for her 3 yr old and the future. There are worse things than a cage.

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5 replies
dar304 July 02 2014 at 3:32 PM

Not enough information to make a judgement. I know I used a "play pen" for my children when they were young to protect them. I believe parents still use them today. Would this be the same concept?

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5 replies
patt64 July 02 2014 at 3:28 PM

TripleXKimberly....I feel sure you would be one of the very first to offer to give the parents some relief with their severely autistic child; I'm sure even two or three hours would help enormously....let me know when that happens.

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4 replies
wtrfrd July 02 2014 at 6:03 PM

From the description of the child's condition, considering his disability, I would bet big money his care was far better than that of the tens of thousands of children of unwed 13 year olds in this country. Walk in this family's shoes for one week then make your judgement. Call these people and volunteer to care for this child in your home for a month. I know the answer to that. This would require an open heart. People quick to judge and condemn others rarely if ever have an open heart...or mind.

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1 reply
Carol wtrfrd July 02 2014 at 11:28 PM

wtrfrd - I couldn't agree more. The boy appeared to be lovingly cared for to me. Well fed, well groomed, clean white tshirt & PJ's. Chances are, that being removed from the people who love him and whom he loves, will be much more traumatic than "time out" in the "safe room".

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Tom July 02 2014 at 3:47 PM

Immigrants pro'bly that spoke limited English. They most likely didn't know what options were available. These days mental patients are dumped on the street anyway.
What would you do if you had to go to work and leave this child alone?

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2 replies
dashdzl Tom July 02 2014 at 3:58 PM

that's what I'd like to think. I hope something good comes out of it.

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zewkeeper122 Tom July 02 2014 at 4:22 PM

Uhmm families have been dealing with special needs children for years. My grandmother did it with 1 autistic and 1 down syndrome child. I was tough on her, but guess what....NO CAGES!!!

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1 reply
mielkele zewkeeper122 July 02 2014 at 5:11 PM

Without knowing where this child falls in the autism spectrum we can't judge.

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happy2bgridfree July 02 2014 at 6:27 PM

The cage is absolutely horrible. BUT

I have a young adult daughter with autism. She is now in a group home, but as a child, there were times when she would act-out so horribly that she was a danger to herself and anyone around her.

She has thrown chairs through windows, pushed my other child down a flight of stairs, kicked, punched and bitten people.

We were fortunate in that we had a large home and were able to re-purpose our Florida room into a play room for her. We had the floor cushioned, as well as the walls halfway-up. Only soft toys and blankets, cushions, etc, were in the room, with a TV mounted high on the wall, where she could not reach it.

She could come and go as she liked.

However, when she needed to go into this room to calm down, we had a child safety gate across the door and she didn't try to breech it ( though it could be released easily. )

A cage is not the answer, but sometimes, drastic measures are needed.

Live through it and see.

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1 reply
vanrse247 happy2bgridfree July 03 2014 at 4:09 AM

Living through it now. My 11 year old does act out violently sometimes but through behavior therapy and meds we have learned to control his outburst and educate him. Educating one self is the key. One must go out and seek therapist, doctors and educators to show and teach us to live and guide our special children. And I'm sorry, caging is not the answer, and if so is then his own doctors would of referred them to the proper facilities to do so.

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TripleXKimberly July 02 2014 at 3:23 PM

If other family members lived in the house and knew what was happening then how come this wasn't reported to someone before now?! They stated they had seen him stay in that cage from hours to days. That is outrageous.

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1 reply
rlmcanoe TripleXKimberly July 02 2014 at 3:35 PM

I was thinking the same thing, why didn't someone else call and get the help they needed

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3 replies
Mike July 02 2014 at 3:14 PM

This is typical of how heterosexuals raise their liters...

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15 replies
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