Safety For Autistic Children And Teenagers Who Wander
These tips can help to keep your autistic child safe if they do wander off.
Teach your child safety skillsIf your child knows some safety skills, it can help them avoid danger. You could use social stories to teach your child about car and road safety, stranger danger, fire safety and water safety. If your child has a fascination with water, its a good idea to teach your child to swim, as well as when its OK to be in the water.
Dress your child in bright clothesIf you dress your child in bright, distinctive clothing when you go out, it will help you and other people spot your child if your child wanders off.
Use an identification necklaceYour child could wear an identification necklace or bracelet that has your contact details and a statement that your child is autistic. If they wander or get lost, people will then know who to call.
Ask for community help If your child has certain places theyre likely to go to for example, the local train station you could introduce yourself and your child to the station staff. You could ask the staff to watch for your child and call you if they see them.
Talk to local police If you have a local police station, its good to introduce the police officers to your child, or to visit the station and give the officers details of your child and your contact information. You could let them know about your childs wandering, where your child is likely to go, and why.
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Training For Police Officers
Alison Singer, president of the Autism Science Foundation, one of the advocacy groups behind the IAN survey, says advocates hope the code will also allow for more funding for research and proper training for police officers, firefighters and other first responders. These rescuers need to better understand those on the autism spectrum, including their behaviors. Otherwise, Singer says, they may not know how to locate a nonverbal or unresponsive wanderer. Theres also the danger that they might feel menaced if, for instance, an impulsive teen tries to reach for a shiny object like a badge or gun or a wanderer invades their space, as many on the spectrum often do if that were to happen, the responder might mistakenly think the wanderer is high on drugs.
Advocates also hope the code can be used to establish that preventative measures such as tracking devices, locks, and door and window alarms are a medical necessity covered by insurance. Wandering has already led some parents to fit their children with tracking devices, which are registered with local law enforcement officials. However, unless theyre waterproof, they often fail to save lives.
This is what happened to 10-year-old Kristina Vlassenko, whose body was discovered in a water-filled hole at a construction site in Colorado. Her Care Trak tracking system, a watch-sized device, does not emit signals under water. By the time she was found, it was too late.
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Sound & Flashing Light Alerts
a. A lot of people seem to use Door Open Chime Alarms. Its simple: the alarm goes off when the door is opened. You can program them and get them to stop/go.
They are inexpensive and seem to be easy to install.
Check out the version that is better for us deaf, thanks to flashing light alerts and the option for every loud volume and/or vibration with Central Alert CA-360 Combo 2 Notification System
b. Squeaky Shoes This is something really simple, but if you can hear the high pitch from the squeak and if your child is wearing these, youll be able to have an idea of where your child is.
This was extremely useful to me when my eloping child was small enough to fit into these.
A Nightmare Come True
For Tamika Wilson, worrying about the safety of her son, five-year-old Paris Jay Washington, is a constant. Unfortunately, her biggest fears came true after her son wandered out of school in East Harlem.
On a Monday morning, school officials at The Mosaic Preparatory Academy called her to alert her to the situation. They said that he was last seen around 10:30 in the morning, playing with other children on the playground at recess.
Wilson explained why this has to be taken so seriously: “It’s a very dangerous situation. I feel they were very negligent with the supervision that they have for my child.”
She was furious that the school let this happen, especially as he was able to wander for many blocks before anyone even picked up on the fact that he was gone. She explained: “We don’t know how long he was missing, where he was at, he could have been anywhere.”
Paris has immense struggles communicating, making the situation even more grave. His mother mentions some of the many disasters that could have easily befallen her son, “he could have gotten hit by a car as he crossed a street. Everything. You see how many buildings there are. Anybody could have just snatched him.”
Not only was she disappointed by the negligence of the school, but they did not contact her until Paris was back at the school – leaving her unaware while her child was lost.
Wilson is becoming as diligent as she can be in protecting her son, and battles constant fear about him following the incident.
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Simple Solutions While Outside
a. I know, I know. Putting a Monkey on Their Backs Harnesses is in essence a leash on your kid isnt attractive and makes you feel like the crunchy Berkeley hippie parents are going to spit on you and call CPS. But whats better that or calling the Police yourself because your kid ran too fast through legs in a crowd and you lost her?
NOTE: I initially only got my daughter to wear this after a lot of effort. Her big brother wore it around the house to help out . She ended up loving it, which easily paved the way to the next step, see below:
b. I went and bought anextra-large dog collar with a retractable sturdy leash when my daughter outgrew her monkey-harness. The extra-large collar will fit around her waist like a belt and I simply attach the leash to her waist.
I went to PetCo and got this after a particularly terrifying eloping episode. This was highly effective in keeping my little bolting child safe, and we used it until she was almost 9.SaveSave
c. It feels a little obvious, but: Neon Clothes.. I mean, if you dress your kid in neon, its a lot easier to see them. Neon clothes are kind of in right now, so its a good time to stock up on some cute designs
d. The BOB Revolution is going to take your child with Down syndrome far past 5 years old, especially with our kids typically being on the small side.
Emergency Plans For Autistic Children And Teenagers Who Wander
If your autistic child is prone to wandering, its a good idea to have an emergency plan. The plan should include:
- your childs name, photo and description
- places your child might go to
- dangerous places to check first for example, your pool or the local train station
- information about how your child might react to people they dont know or to being lost
- contact details for the local police, your neighbours, and any places your child might go for example, the train station
- your contact information.
with carers, friends, neighbours, family, your childs school and the local police. You can also help people get to know your child, so that theyre more likely to act and know what to do if they find your child unsupervised.
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Highly Stressful For Parents
Consider the case of Nadia Bloom, an 11-year-old with Aspergers who disappeared while riding her bike, only to be found waist-deep in an alligator-infested Florida swampland. Incredibly, she suffered only from bug bites and dehydration. Jeff Bloom, Nadias father, told reporters, Our daughter is a nature lover. She went on a bike ride and stopped and went off to take some pictures.
Its no wonder that more than half of parents reported that wandering is the most stressful ASD behavior, ahead of self-injury, rigidity, aggression, and meltdowns. Meanwhile, 62 percent said fear of their child eloping stopped them from attending or enjoying activities outside the home, increasing their social isolation not surprisingly, 40 percent of these already exhausted parents said they lost sleep while worrying about a potential escape during the night.
So why do ASD children wander? While researchers still arent sure, parents ranked these as their childs top five possible motivations:
1. He/she simply enjoys running and exploring 2. He/she is heading to a favorite place he enjoys such as a park 3. He/she is trying to escape an anxious situation like demands at school 4. He/she is pursuing a special topic of interest, i.e. when a child fascinated by trains heads for the train tracks 5. He/she is trying to escape uncomfortable sensory stimuli such as loud noise
How To Prevent Your Autistic Child From Wandering Away In Public
Its a parents worst fear. The moment that you realize your child is missing and you cannot find them. Even if it happens for only seconds, your heart starts racing and the worst thoughts begin to enter your mind.
This happens to many parents, however, when you are a parent of an autistic or special needs child, there is an even higher risk of wandering.
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Techniques For Avoiding And Managing Meltdowns
Children with autism can have a tough time managing their behavior. Even high functioning children can “have a meltdown” in situations that would be only mildly challenging to a typical peer.
Children with more severe symptoms can get very upset on a daily basis. Meltdowns and anxiety can make it very hard to participate in typical activities or, in some extreme cases, to even leave the house.
It’s not always easy to calm a child with autism, but there are techniques that can often be successful. Some require a bit of extra equipment that offers sensory comfort. Some of these items can be used in settings like school or community venues. If they work well, they’re worth their weight in gold.
Verywell / Brianna Gilmartin
What To Do During A Very Loud Very Public Meltdown
When our child has a meltdown, parents often want to stop the tears because it hurts our hearts that our kids are struggling. Or were running low on patience and just want peace and quiet.
Many times, were coping with the fifth or sixth meltdown that morning over seemingly simple things like the tag in their shirt being too itchy, their sister talking too loudly, or a change in plans.
Children with autism arent crying, wailing, or flailing to get at us somehow.
Theyre crying because its what their bodies need to do in that moment to release tension and emotion from feeling overwhelmed with emotions or sensory stimulations.
Their brains are wired differently and so its how they interact with the world. Thats something we have to come to terms with as parents so we can support them in the best way.
So how can we effectively support our children through these often loud and thrashing meltdowns?
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Autism And Flight Risk: Five Ways To Keep Your Child Safe
One of the most difficult parts of raising a child with autism is the fear of losing them. For my son, the combination of intelligence, impulsivity, and an inability to comprehend danger results in my family living in a constant state of hypervigilance and fear. When we go out, there is always the possibility he will try to run away. When were home, there is the fear that he will get out of the house. Our family has addressed this issue with an ability to think outside the box and one step ahead of our 14-year-old son, Ben.
1. Under lock and keyThe most obvious way to keep a child safe at home are locked doors. We learned the hard way that deadbolt locks with a switch that can be turned by hand was only effective until he was 6 years old. One day he unlocked it and wandered out of the house while I was only one room away. Luckily, I caught him in time before he was halfway down the street. We switched to locks with keys and installed them on every door leading to the outside, my laundry room, my daughters bedroom, and our master bedroom. They are all master keyed so that our house key opens them all. In addition, we dont keep our keys hanging next to the door. Its inconvenient, but thats the point.
For more information about wandering and a free box of safety materials, contact the National Autism Association at http://nationalautismassociation.org/big-red-safety-box/
Teach Your Child To Walk Next To You
Some children with autism learn to stop running away and can be taught to walk next to you in public. For example, my oldest child now understands the dangers of running away and stays next to me when we are out in public.
Of course, this took years of working with her, but it has taken a huge weight off of my shoulders now that she has learned how to stay with me.
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Breaking Through The Barriers Of Asd
ASD has no cure. But there is hope through treatment. Many children can learn to communicate and interact. Healthcare providers and mental health experts have learned a lot about how to break through to these children.
Here are some things we know about children with an ASD:
They may not be able to understand your nonverbal communications. They may not react to your smile or frown.
They take things literally. You need to be careful to say exactly what you mean. If you hurry the child by saying “Step on it,” don’t be surprised if he or she asks what to step on.
They may only be able to handle one thought or idea at a time. Keep conversations focused and simple.
They may want to only talk about the one thing they are really interested in at a given time.
They may see things differently than you do. You may not even notice ordinary sounds, tastes, touches, smells, and sights. But these may be physically painful to the child.
An Appropriate Response Plan
Meanwhile, no one at Connors school had called his mother or the police. He could have been struck by a car, raped, abducted, McIlwain says. When the police saw people at Connors school searching for him, they realized he belonged there. Only then did someone at the school notify her. The advocate notes that had the school had a proper emergency response plan or if Connor had been wearing an ID the situation could have been resolved quickly. Instead, he was still in the cop car when they called me, she says.
I got him out of that school as fast as I could, McIlwain says. She then enlisted a lawyer to help add a 1:1 aide to his Individualized Education Plan to escort him during transitions, such as when he leaves the classroom to go to a therapy. With the added support, Connor is able to attend a school for typically developing children. McIlwain feels the code will help keep the aide should her son continue to need one, so in October shell have his pediatrician provide an updated letter noting the diagnosis for the school and his IEP.
While some adults with autism worry that a medical code could be used to justify the restraint or seclusion of a student, or place him in a more restrictive school environment, McIlwain says her experience with Connor demonstrates how the exact opposite could result. If more parents can use the code to get their wandering child the supports he or she needs, the child could enter a less, not more, restrictive setting.
Understand The Reason For Elopement
When children elope, they are trying to communicate something. When you figure out what they are trying to say, you can help them communicate it in a safer way.
Some situations cause extra stress and make elopement more likely. Stressors are different for each child, but a few situations that commonly contribute to elopement are:
- Unfamiliar Settings
Look for patterns in what may be causing your child to wander or run away. Do they elope during a certain activity? Are they trying to escape an unwanted stimulus? After elopement attempts, make notes about what was going on before so that you can begin to see what might be causing the behavior. If you can figure out a pattern in your childs behavior, you work on helping them find other ways to communicate and ensure that youre on high alert when they likely to elope.
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