Joe Daniels' Death Spotlights Autism Challenges

DICKSON, Tenn. - The killing of 5-year-old Joe Clyde Daniels has shined a light on the challenges of parenting an autistic child, but it has also emphasized the amount of support available to families in need.

Speculation is all that can be made as to what happened in the days and hours leading up to little Joe Clyde Daniel's death. 

After countless volunteers showed up to help search for the 5-year-old for three days, on day four a startling turn of events.

"You raise a child from way back, you think you know him. You don't think he would kill his own baby," Joe's step grandmother, Bell Daniels, said. 

The boy's father Joseph Ray Daniels confessed to killing his young son with his own hands, a son we now know had autism and was considered non verbal. 

"I understand how someone might escalate to that situation without support some place," Babs Tierno said.

Tierno is the executive director of Autism Tennessee and said an autism diagnoses can be very isolating for families. However, there is help including Autism Tennessee's helpline number which is manned by volunteer parents who have children with autism.  

"It's someone who's been in your shoes, someone who has been through what you've been through, who has cried on the floor, who has held their child through a meltdown...it is someone who gets it," Tierno said. 

All too often she said children with Autism can and do wander off. “Its one of the number one risk factors, its actually the number one cause of death,” she said. Its why she wanted to be with the volunteers who searched for Joe, but the search ended in a way no one expected. “I just think its heartbreaking that it played out this way,” said Tierno. 

She has this simple advice for parents who find themselves reaching their boiling point with their own children, "the first thing I'd tell you is just walk away, just walk away. Parents need time outs too."

If you'd like to reach out to a parent with Autism Tennessee for help, call 615-385-2077 ext 1 or email support@autismTN.org. You can find more resources on the website.

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