Wandering is a common problem that endangers the lives of many children with autism. In this article I outline the final steps you can take to keep this from happening to your child.
I began an article on the previous page about preventing this common problem, and this is a continuation of that article.
So if you haven’t yet read page 1 of this article, click here to go back and read page 1 and then come back here when you are ready.
We began by listing the first six ways to protect our children from wandering. The following are six more precautions we should consider taking to keep our kids safe.
7. Anticipate that your child could attempt to open a window and escape that way.
I asked my brother-in-law how I could secure my windows just in case. Since my windows open by pulling them upward, he recommended placing a dowel in the vertical track either on the left or right-hand side of the window. The dowel could be secured with a little strapping tape to keep it from falling out of place and even painted the same color as the window track to hide it.
Make sure your child doesn’t see you place the dowel in the window so she doesn’t know it’s there.
If she attempts to open the window, she’ll just think it’s locked. If your window opens from side to side, place the dowel in the bottom horizontal track of the window.
8. Discuss safety precautions with your child's teachers and therapists.
If your child goes to school or therapy, find out if sufficient safety measures are in place there. If there are any safety precautions lacking, ask them to work on having these protections installed.
9. Consider whether a personal tracking device might be right for your child.
There are various types, ranging from small units placed in your child’s backpack or a wristband your child wears which allows parents to monitor their child’s location.
Some units are even waterproof. Other more expensive types allow local rescue personnel to monitor and track the child.
The parent-monitored units can have a range from 300 feet to 1 mile. Units monitored by rescue personnel can have range of 5-7 miles from the air.
10. Think about whether an ID bracelet would work for your child.
This type of bracelet would alert anyone who encounters him that he has autism, that he may not be verbally responsive, and any other details about your child that are important. Include your name, address and phone number.
I know for a fact that my son would never keep a bracelet on, but some children would. If he absolutely will not wear a bracelet, an alternative could be a temporary tattoo.
Be careful to research the type of ink in the temporary tattoo. I would want to be sure the ink is nontoxic because toxins can cause serious problems for a child with autism. As many health experts say, if you wouldn’t eat it, you shouldn’t put it on your skin because whatever is on your skin goes straight into your body and into the bloodstream, cells and tissues.
11. If she can write and/or speak, teach your child to write and say her name, address, phone number and her parents' names.
It’s probably a good idea to have her learn to type the information as well. That way she'll be ready to provide this vital information to local authorities, making it easier for them to get her back home.
If she doesn’t have an ID bracelet on at the time, knowing her personal information could be crucial.
12. Understand that Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) may be at the root of a child's tendency to bolt.
Many children with autism also have OCD. Characteristic of OCD is a fear of doing something really awful or harmful to themselves.
While those with OCD who aren’t autistic usually won’t give in to the temptation, more severely autistic children might. But it's important to understand that the child really doesn’t want to escape.
What's often happening is that the child with OCD is tormented with temptations to do the very thing that s/he doesn't want to do.
Taking precautions such as installing double cylinder deadbolts (pictured on the first page of this article) will give your child a sense of security and relief that she is protected from her own dangerous behavior.
Remember, even if your child has never had a problem with wandering, realize that what may not be a problem today could be an issue next month or next year. There is a first time for everything.
Because wandering is such a huge safety risk, the National Autism Association is offering free Big Red Safety Boxes for parents. These boxes have a lot of valuable resources, including two wireless door alarms, an engraved ID shoe tag, a caregiver checklist, a family wandering emergency plan, and much, much more. Click here to apply for your Big Red Safety Box.
Better to have safety protections in place and not need them than to have a tragedy happen and live with the regret that we did not take steps to prevent it.
If we take these steps, we’ll not only prevent any tragedies, but we’ll also give ourselves peace of mind knowing our kids are safe.
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