There’s a lot in the news lately about wandering with autistic kids. A few of the tweet feeds I follow (such as @NationalAutism) work very hard to raise awareness of this issue, since we’re talking about kids who don’t communicate very well and don’t seem to realize that what they’re doing is dangerous.
Until very recently, we weren’t worrying about this ourselves, since the Monster usually is content to stay somewhere near us. He’s been prone to go dashing off now and again, but he generally is going towards something/someone already in his view and ours, meaning that he’ll stop a short distance away where we can catch up with him. The exception had been closed environments where it was ‘safe’ – the fenced-in playground near our home, at shul, the indoor playground at the mall, etc.
We’d had one incident about two weeks ago, where my wife was trying to load both kids into the car, and he took off running into our back yard. Not too much of a concern – there’s really only two ways out unless he climbs through vegetation into a neighboring yard, and he’s not shown any inclination yet to do that. So my wife was going to wait for him to emerge on the other side… until she realized there was the inflatable pool in the back yard, which was full of water from having been used the day before, and she took off after him. Yup – she found him, fully clothed, in the pool. But still, his doing things like that was wholly limited by someone taking him outside and then not paying enough attention to grab him before he took off running.
And then he learned how to work the storm door.
Yesterday, we had a repeat of the pool incident – furniture was being delivered to the house, and my wife went to talk to the delivery guys while they were putting things into our family room. (I was at the office.) She didn’t realize that they had left the main front door open, and before she knew what was happening, she heard the piston on the front storm door… and yes, she went outside to find him, again, fully clothed in the pool.
My larger concern is that he’s starting to feel his independence, such as it is. His cousin came over to play on Saturday and we let him out in the back yard in a swimsuit to play in the pool and his water table, under supervision. No fewer than three times did he go bolting for the next door neighbor’s house, where there are plenty of toys on their front porch. And we’re not getting through to him that it’s just plain not safe for him to run off like that – not that this is uncommon.
Obviously, since an ounce of prevention outweighs a pound of cure, the biggest solution is closer supervision – make sure that doors are closed and that we stick close to him out in public areas. (I’m probably going to turn back on the ‘signal’ sound for the doors so we know if one’s opened.) A friend suggested an information bracelet on him so that if he turns up away from us, we can be found. And we’re going to have to talk to the neighbors we see to ensure they know about the Monster’s diagnosis so that if they do see him wandering, they bring him back… but obviously, something has to be done…
It’s scary with any child, but even moreso with a child on the spectrum who simply cannot verbalize so many of his wants and needs and basic information. If he were to sprint fast enough down the block, for some reason, and whoever found him called the police, it would take that much longer to,get him back to you. I am all for some kind of bracelet/necklace that has pertinent info just in case anything happened.