Child safety & autism: IBS in the making...

I read with interest
the article about training law enforcement, first responders and fire fighters to handle autism, and I agree that it is a great idea.

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Safety issues are what give parents of children with autism the feeling that autism is a chronic crisis. But wait a minute... you can’t have a chronic crisis, can you? Yes, with autism you can. Unlike other disorders, parents of children with autism are eternally vigilant. So..., the safety concern and monitoring is chronic, but when the child climbs out a window to take a walk around the neighborhood, that is a crisis. Ergo, autism is a chronic crisis.

Although most parents understand how to monitor their child with autism, the school system often fails in this regard. I’ve lost count of the number of times a child with autism goes “missing” from the school yard. That’s bureaucratic speak for (and please allow me to translate):
we weren’t monitoring your child closely enough due to budget cuts, and we’ve kept you out of the loop this entire time because what you don’t know, can’t hurt us...

One of the ironic twists regarding autism and safety is that the more successful the child is in school, the more the child is mainstreamed. Increased mainstreaming puts the child at increased risk; however, school districts generally reject this notion and peg the parent as being “over protective” instead of understanding that the ability to receive an A in 10th Grade Math has no relation to whether the child can cross the street without being hit by a car. It’s crucial to train
Emergency Medical Services about autism; however, we parents cannot rely solely on the goodness of others when it comes to protecting our children.

We need to set up
systems whereby our children’s safety is guaranteed. Simple examples include: 1) alarming our homes so that every time a window is opened, we hear it through the gentle beeping of the alarm system, 2) requiring fences around the school yard (which would protect the typically developing children from malfeasance as well), 3) providing a Wherify watch (with monitoring) to attach to the clothing, belt or wrist of the child with autism, and 4) teaching the child to swim (which can be done by professionals with the right expertise).

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Children with autism can be taught an amazing amount of information; however, the difference between those children with autism who grow up to be quirky, but independent adults, and those who are dependent and need to live under the supervision of others boils down to one word: SAFETY.

Note: For any readers who do not know about IBS, it is Irritable Bowel Syndrome, a condition which is caused, most often, by unrelenting stress and seems to be common among parents of children with autism.