When we were pregnant, I never dreamed I would be needing to think beyond the normal safety measures we already put in place for Cameron and Cody.
Did you know that drowning fatalities following wandering incidents remain a leading cause of death among those with Autism Spectrum Disorder? Over the holidays, we were given an opportunity with the National Autism Association (NAA) to order what they refer to is the Big Red Safety Box. Like any parents, we would jump on the opportunity especially since NAA was giving these to parents in the Autism community for free! When Brad and I received our red box we soon came to realize how important is was to be sure we completed all the items that were included.
Think about it this way…Say you were in a car accident with Cody. The accident caused you to not be conscious but Cody was. The emergency crew would not understand why Cody could not talk or why he might be pushing them away or might even get severely upset when approached by strangers causing a meltdown. Now, you may say this is typical with even neurotypical (normal) children and yes you are correct! The difference however, is how you can change your behaviors or actions if you are aware that the child is autistic. By knowing the child is autistic, you would change your approach on how you request the information you may need from them. The autistic child might be able to understand if you write the information down or if you were able to visually show them a photo or picture on your mobile device but simply might not be able to “say it.” When the emergency crew knows the child is autistic then they can quickly change their way of asking to gather the information needed to help others or themselves.
Imagine if there is a fire at our home while we were all asleep. The smoke and flames cause us not to be able to escape the house but Cody was able to get to the emergency crew. In this situation, today, Cody would not be able to tell the firemen that his brother or pets are trapped upstairs since he is non-verbal. By having a decal on our windows saying, “Child with ASD – May not respond to verbal commands” allows the emergency crew to know and they can do a more thorough search of the home and identify a different way to communicate with him.
Lastly, autistic children are prone to wandering off or eloping from a safe environment, and may be unable to recognize danger and/or stay safe. Wandering, elopement, “running” or fleeing behaviors among those within our community not only present unique safety risks, but also create extraordinary worry and stress among caregivers and parents. This is something we have not experienced but very well could one day.
Cody’s journey has opened my eyes to something new every single week and if I can share with each of you small chunks of awareness and education, we can all have a better understanding of Autism. I wanted to wrap up sharing a poem that was written from a special needs teacher. It pretty much sums up how some of Cody and other children’s behaviors can be different then you and I.
Here is what the teacher wrote. “As I was finishing grad school I was taking a writing class and was asked to write a preface to an essay about a topic that was influencing and shaping the landscape of American society. As an ABA therapist at the time of this assignment, I immediately thought of the undiscriminating nature of autism and how it has penetrated all factions of American society. What I created was a short poem that embodied everything I thought was poignant, and at the same time subtle, about autism.”
I’ve had conversations without using words
But understood everything that was heard
Trapped inside but free to explore
The world around them and so much more
A blink of an eye, a glance, a nod
Signal to me what words cannot
A day, a month, an hour or week
It may take us to realize that Autism Speaks
Keep in mind regardless of any tools we may have in place, if our loved ones diagnosis interferes with their ability to recognize danger or stay safe, it is critical that we maintain close supervision and security in our homes and our duty to educate others. Autism Awareness Everyday