Going to the Please Touch Museum brings out our major issue when we’re in public – the fact that our Monster is a runner.
In specific, if we’re not really paying attention to what he’s doing, he’s liable to take off in any given direction. Even with us paying attention, there were times that he dashed off and it took us a few moments to lock on to where he’d disappeared to.
We haven’t had a huge problem so far with wandering, since he usually runs off to something within sight or that we’re aware he’s interested in – running around the side of the house to go jump in the pool, for instance. And when we go out, he’s usually either in a contained environment (the playground near our home is fenced in, PTM which is entirely walled in, the indoor playground at the local mall, the pool area at the JCC, etc) or we’re really within arm’s reach. But we do have the occasional snafu, such as this morning when he went out the front door and started running (and I suspect, if I’d not yelled for my wife to go after him, he’d probably have just gone over to the cars, since that’s the usual morning pattern).
And of course, the Monster’s not quite up with the verbal communications. He’s not very good with the “What’s your name?” question yet. (Prompting him with “My name is…?” will often get a response, for instance.) My wife also isn’t a big fan of something bright and open on him when we’re in public that would identify him as autistic, for fear of how people might react. I’d be tempted to get him something akin to a Medic-Alert bracelet like the one I wear when I travel, save that he doesn’t like to wear anything on his wrists.
A while ago, the National Autism Association had an offer to get childIDcode stickers for a donation and, figuring it didn’t hurt, I signed up for some. I loved the concept of these stickers – they’re a QR code that’s readable from any smartphone that simply outputs ‘I AM AUTISTIC’ and the parent’s phone number on the screen. In our case, his batch has my cellphone number, since he already has stickers in his shoes with his mother’s number.
In the Monster’s case, he likes to play with stickers, so the wife managed to get it up above his shoulder blades on his back, where he couldn’t get to it. After about fifteen minutes, he forgot it was there entirely. As you can see from the picture above, it’s clearly visible against his shirt without giving away why there is a QR code on his shirt.
In clear text beneath the square, it says very clearly “Scan if lost”. I can’t imagine something simpler for a security person, good samaritan or police officer to use in the modern day and age if an autistic child gets lost in a public place.
Since this first batch came out, they now made them fully customizable text-wise, so long as it’s limited to two very short lines. (It’s for offline use and there’s a limit to what you can encode in a QR code, so you’re limited to 27 characters. I wish it could hold more – a third line with his name, for instance – but I’ll cope.) Now, the Monster did wriggle around and we ended up having to reposition the sticker a few times in the morning to get it to where he couldn’t reach it, without any real issues of the sticker coming off later. They say on their site that it’s UV and water resistant, but since the Monster didn’t get it wet, I can’t tell you about that, though I believe it from how it was still fully adhered at the end of the day. That sucker’s nicely durable.
The extra bit of peace of mind was definitely worth the $5, if you ask me.
Update (18 September 2012): Well, we finally sent a shirt with one of the stickers on it through the wash. If you had any questions as to how water-resistant the stickers are – even after going through our washer and dryer, the sticker was still legible and sticky. I feel confident that I can say that these stickers are water-resistant enough for most uses. 🙂