I mentioned in my prior post that I had a minor issue when I took the Monster to the park on Saturday. This isn’t a new problem and it’s one that I’ve heard from more than a few parents with kids with an ASD.
The Monster likes to roam. Specifically, he likes to wander/walk/run off when it suits him, without giving warning as to when/where he’s going.When it’s the house, we’re not too worried. We still have much of the living area zoned off with baby gates to keep him limited at times (though it’s more since we’re too lazy to remove it, as child #2 is going to need the gates within a year). The wife’s study and the Monster’s bedroom are similarly zoned behind gates – one to keep him out, and one to keep him in.
On Saturday, if I wasn’t waiting at the bottom of a slide when he reached the bottom himself, he’d go running off in a straight line towards whatever had interested him. The park in question isn’t fenced in, but I’d already borne that one in mind when I decided to take him there, and I was unencumbered enough to allow me to chase him down. My wife – for that exact reason – avoids said park in favor of a smaller playground near our house which is fully fenced in.
However, she herself had the same problem – on Friday, she took him to the JCC playground after his classes there. The playground is fenced in, but it’s also connected to the pool area, and the Monster rather loves the pool. So when she came through the gate, with the stroller for #2 as well, he went running towards the pool, fully dressed. When she called out for someone to stop him, the lifeguards simply blew their whistles and yelled for him to stop – something that many parents will agree is ineffective with a child who doesn’t necessarily pay attention and doesn’t respond to strangers yelling.
These are the times where I almost wish there was something we could put on him to identify him – visually – as a special-needs child in certain environments. Not that I generally want my son labelled in such a way in public generally – I don’t want him defined by his disability – but I wonder if folks would respond differently if they were aware that he has challenges and can’t be depended on to respond the way a typically developing child his age would respond. This began a conversation at home about such things – noting that our son doesn’t necessarily like stickers on his shirt or bracelets, and that it would require still making sure that others around understood what the marking meant.
Barring limiting him to environments where people know him, I think that this issue’s going to require some thought…
Truth is, any child could have run off, deciding not to listen, and it was poor judgement that someone did not physically come down to get him. In general, though, I do believe we have to have a way to identify these kids so that if they get lost, a family member who knows the child can easily be contacted, especially if the child is non-verbal or may use some kind of device/pictures to communicate.
No, I agree completely – I can recall times where my sibs and I ran off too… but there was the added impact that we could, indeed, demonstrate our ability to follow directions and heed a lifeguard’s whistle. I’m thinking of how to give an additional visual warning in certain scenarios that would clearly call out when a child has communications issues (ie, a whistle isn’t going to mean anything to him/her). Something to clearly signify that the lifeguard needs to intervene directly.
A posting on my personal wall had an interesting idea about labeling children to ensure that a parent can be contacted, and that the child is dealt with appropriately in the meantime – I’m going to think on that and probably post later this week on that.