Whenever an individual with autism wanders and goes missing, the autism community rallies around that family. We do what we can to get the word out and we do it with an urgency that screams, I KNOW WHAT IS AT STAKE!
Despite your support for families affected by wandering, it will not hit home for you until it happens to you. When you have shared the flyers and sent out your tweets, you will still get under your covers at night knowing that your child is safe.
Recently, my sense of security was shattered when my son disappeared for a few minutes while we were at an amusement park. My mind immediate thought of the beach nearby and how obsessed he had been with the water from the moment we arrived. I don’t know how I would’ve survived if anything had happened to him.
As his mom, it is my duty to keep him safe. And in those brief moments, I felt like a failure. When I shared what had happened with other autism parents, I realized that my story was not unique. That is a scary thought. So many parents had gone through terrifying moments, sometimes hours, of not knowing where their child had wandered of to.
According to the AWAARE Collaboration, “wandering is the tendency for an individual to try to leave the safety of a responsible person’s care or a safe area, which can result in potential harm or injury. This might include running off from adults at school or in the community, leaving the classroom without permission, or leaving the house when the family is not looking.”
They also state that nearly half of individuals with autism wander. This is a scary fact. A fact that autism families know too well. It is scary because it can end in death and frankly no parent should have to bury their child.
It can happen to even the most vigilant family. I know when these incidents happen people ignorantly ask why parents can’t just watch their kids. It is not that simple. It is impossible for any human being to keep their eyes on another person 24/7. If you know someone who is able to do this, please let me know.
If your child wanders, here are some items that need to be on your to-do list:
- Have it noted on your child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP). This holds the school and school district accountable.
- Teach your child how to swim.
- Get your child a tracking device.
- Take your child’s fingerprints.
- Include additional identification methods that can help someone contact you if your child is found. Example: shoe tags, ID bracelets or chains, ID cards, etc.
- Make sure you have added support when you travel with your child. This can include support staff or even a family member.
For more information on wandering and how you can keep your child safe, please visit the AWAARE Collaboration’s Web site.
BMWK: Does your child wander? What strategies do you use to keep your child safe?