Don't Let Common Sense Wander

I recently came across yet another news account about a child with autism that wandered off; luckily this child was found alive and safe!   Seemingly every week we hear the same story, simply in a different location. Often there is a happy ending; however, too often the ending is tragic. It is happening so often that there is now a family web-site that remembers children with autism who were lost forever because they wandered away from home.

Make sure this doesn’t happen to your child.
As a parent of a child with autism, you need to make life less stressful by setting up systems that ensure your child’s safety, without having to expend too much energy. Rest assured, there are active and passive ways to minimize your stress levels and maximize your child’s safety!    

Passive protection:
• Alarm your home so that every time a window or door is opened, you can hear it through the warning beeps of the alarm system. This can be programmed to occur even when the system is not armed. The beeping allows you to monitor your child without necessarily having to see the child every moment. The minute you hear the beeping, then you can act (just make sure that you don’t run into your spouse since he will be doing the same thing!).

• For a relatively modest cost, a GPS child locator device like a
Wherify watch (with monitoring) is a huge technological leap. This is a financial commitment but if your child is a wanderer or an escape artist, it is definitely worth your peace of mind.  
• Teach your child how to swim. There is probably someone in your community who teaches swimming and understands how to efficiently teach your child to swim. The local pools and/or community centers are generally not the way to go. Ask around to find the person in your community with the reputation of being an effective swim teacher. Once your child is water safe, your worry about drowning disappears.

Active protection:  

• Lobby your school district to erect fences around the school yard with locked gates (which would protect the typically developing children from malfeasance as well). The child would then need to leave through the front door, which is often near the front office, generally manned by an adult and further away from the playground.    

• Inform your school that the child is a flight risk and that you hold them 100% accountable for your child’s safety.  

• Make sure that your child is being supervised at all times by an adult, and not through the “buddy” system. The “buddy” system is bureaucratic speak for: “We don’t have enough staff, and the staff all want to eat at the same time. In order to make the staff happy, we have a child who is marginally older than your child, designated to take responsibility for the physical safety of your child. But, don’t worry, everything is under control... We’re professionals!” Please don’t countenance the buddy system for your child.    

Once you take care of your child’s safety needs, your stress levels will diminish and the number of crises should decrease as well.  Let’s make sure that the remembrance web-site for wandering children with autism does not grow by even one child.