This year has given a new awareness to autism, and not in a good way.
So many lives have been lost, in part because of autism’s impact.
And within the last week:
And there are more. So many more. So many that we do not even know about.
It should not be this way.
Some are tragic accidents, some are not – but the message is clear: autism presents an array of challenges. Not just to autistic individuals, but to parents, caregivers and the general public.
According to a recent AAP study, 49% of survey respondents have said that their ASD child has attempted to elope at least once (after 4 years old) and that 26% were missing long enough to cause concern. Back in May, the NAA released a statement regarding recent drowning deaths.
Of course, accidents do happen. And I like to believe that you are like me, a bit “helicoptery” (to make a new word) when it comes to kids and safety.
But we are not perfect. One time, I lost track of B for 15 seconds in a grocery store. I nearly had a panic attack. If that was 15 seconds, what about 5 minutes? 5 hours? 5 days?
We are not around our children 24/7/365. There’s school, or field trips. Encouraging independence and a thriving life comes with a big risk of wandering.
What else can we do?
We need to know our children. We need to know what they are attracted to, or what can trigger elopement. The NAA has a great resource: “12 Ways To Prevent, And Respond To, ASD Wandering.”
We need to educate. We need to make it known that elopement is serious for autistic individuals. A news story shown last month in DC highlights such a need. Make your neighbors aware of wandering. I am going to continue work with B on what to do in a public place if he gets lost.
Tracking devices are useful, if your area is serviced by a vendor (Project Lifesaver and LoJack are common). In conjunction with your local police department, they can be vital in a wandering/elopement situation.
If you have a home alarm system, you can have the alarm make a noise every time someone opens a door. In addition to locks and chains, we utilize this at home. Visitors tend to be startled at the first instance of a strange voice saying, “Sensor 3 Back Door Open *beep*” but they all say what a great idea that is.
There are other options out there – ID cars, tattoos, you name it. Utilize the internet and you will find a host of products, information and other items just like I have linked in my post. The point is – there are so many different strategies that can work in conjunction to help stem these heartbreaking stories.
An event will take place next week in Montgomery County, MD that a fellow autism parent has planned with Autism Speaks. This event, while showing off some cool stuff (K-9 unit! Moonbounce!) the overall goal is to get the word out about safety for those with autism and their caregivers.
If you are in the DC metro area, I encourage you to try to come out if you can.