Ok, so I have so many other things I want to say but first I need to get this off my chest. I typically like to keep my blogs about Cody’s progress but I cannot stress the importance of this and the constant education, awareness and reminders all of us need on this topic.
National Autism Association shared, It’s estimated that one out every 68 individuals has an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and according to a 2012 study in Pediatrics, 49% of children with ASD have a tendency to wander or bolt from safe settings. Individuals with ASD are often attracted to water, yet have little to no sense of danger. Drowning is a leading cause of death in children with ASD.
ASD wandering behaviors happen under every type of supervision and are usually a form of communication — an “I need,” “I want,” or “I don’t want.” Individuals with ASD will wander or bolt to get to something of interest, or away from something bothersome.
Here are some facts:
- Nearly half of children with autism engage in wandering behavior
- Increased risks are associated with autism severity
- More than one third of children with autism who wander/elope are never or rarely able to communicate their name, address, or phone number
- Half of families report they have never received advice or guidance about elopement from a professional
- Accidental drowning accounts for approximately 90% of lethal outcomes
- Other dangers include dehydration; heat stroke; hypothermia; traffic injuries; falls; physical restraint; encounters with strangers
Cody is not necessarily a runner (yet) however he is easily distracted by the straight lines on the power-lines near our home or bouncing of a ball to the point that he would never look back for me. Give the boy an open field, and he is gone! Crowds do not bother him either. He does not have the cautious thinking to stay with a parent or caregiver in a crowded setting and has zero fear to walk off on his own.
This gets more and more concerning to me every day, the older he gets and the most he develops. Over the last few months, myself along with others in the Autism community, gather forces to spread the word of a missing child in hopes of a safe return. Fearful because we have nothing to safe guard our children. (yet) Amber Alerts in most cities will not get issued or they delay issuing an alert which I can tell you personally they end tragically because of this. My prayers go out to both families in Texas and Colorado.
NAA shared, “You see children with autism, it’s a common misconception that AMBER Alerts are automatically issued for any child who is missing. AMBER Alerts are typically only issued for a child who is seen abducted and believed to be endangered. Sometimes law enforcement will, in fact, issue an AMBER Alert for a child that has not been abducted if the child is believed to be endangered, but AMBER Alerts should not be relied upon as a guarantee for any child with autism who may wander off. MAKE SURE THE 911 OPERATOR KNOWS THAT YOUR CHILD HAS A DISABILITY AND IS ENDANGERED. ALWAYS ASK FOR AN AMBER ALERT TO BE ISSUED”.
It saddens me for the family’s over the last 30 days that lost their sweet young boys. Both of which were in endangered from drowning. Why would you delay an Amber Alert for that?
In 2016, myself and several of my family and friends have reached out to our local and state representatives several times in support of the Kevin and Avonte Law to help safeguard children with Autism. Fortunately, the US Senate passed this law in December and I am anxious to see what all this will mean for our children.
I have also researched and reached out for advice from a local group of over 1000 Moms into GPS devices and have found nothing that seems that would work for my son right now. They are either too big for his wrist, not waterproof, easily can be removed, etc. If we can microchip an animal there should be no reason why we can’t have this as a GPS option for a child right? I would actually highly consider at this point for the safety of Cody.
In the meantime, I have shared this handout with all of Cody’s educators and therapists and have it displayed in his therapy room. I received some awesome advice this week to reach out to my local police department and ask them if they have trained their officers about wandering and safety. ASK. Do you have a program in place on how to handle these types of situations? ASK, Do they know about children with autism and wandering? Educate. Educate. Educate. There is a wealth of information that can be found here on wandering too! This Guide has some great information to share with your local law enforcement. I actually printed and completed this and placed in a small binder in our home so we have it available for us and our 11 other therapist and teachers that all work with Cody.
Lastly, have a dinner conversation with your other children in your home. Make sure they understand about wandering too.