With the recent tragic loss of a little 5-year old boy with Autism here in PA, it makes me even more frightened for Billy. Billy wanders, like many kids with Autism do. He has no sense of fear and will not seek help if lost. I am thankful to have never had an experience where he was lost, but it worries me everyday that it is a possibility. When we go out anywhere, I am like a mother eagle circling her baby. I hold his hand the entire time if he is walking, he sits in his stroller still many times and if he is somewhere playing, you can bet I am by his side for every little move he makes. But, there is always the fear that I could turn my eyes away for one second and he could be gone. I have seen many news reports these past few months about another child with Autism who has gone missing. What is even more sad, is that many are not found in time to save them. Children with Autism are very drawn to water. Billy also has no fear and if we were near a pool or ocean, he just goes darting to run in. It is scary to think of all the dangers out there for our children.
I wanted to write about 4 things I do to help keep Billy safe. I know there is even more to be done, but this is a list of 4 things I do:
1.) Alarm System & Door Security Items: Yes, I am one of those parents who has an alarm system in their home. There are sensors on every single door and window. If Billy opens a door to run outside, the alarm immediately goes off. It also alerts us on what is open that is causing the alarm. This makes me feel a bit better in our home knowing that if he does open a door or window, I will hear immediately and be able to get to it. I know not everyone wants or can afford to do an alarm system. There are other wonderful products out there that can help protect them at home the same way. One product is these door and window alarms. You can get a set for $13 right now. I used these before we had our alarm system installed. They are wonderful. The moment a door or window was opened, the alarm sounded. Loud and clear! I highly recommend them if you have a child who elopes like I do. You can also place the childproof door handles on any doors that lead outside, so it is harder for small children to open the doors and safety latches on all doors that lead outside, placed up high, out of the reach of the child. You can get these at most any stores.
2.) Safety Tags/Tattoos: Another great product is a safety tag or tattoo. When we take Billy out, we have a RoadID tag. It goes on his shoes and has information on it in case he is lost. You can purchase them here. When I ordered my Big Red Safety Box from National Autism Association, I received the shoe lace attachment and a voucher for a free RoadID tag in it. If you are worried your child may not leave their shoes or any article of clothing on that it attaches to, you can also get a tattoo for them. I plan to purchase these for our next vacation. It lets people know they have Autism and you write your number and info on it. This can not be removed by the child. This is a link to purchase them here. Both are wonderful things to keep on a child who wanders.
3.) Swim Lessons: Sadly, I have heard a lot about children who wander and drown. It is scary knowing that many children with Autism are so attracted to water. I see it for myself with Billy. One thing I plan to do very soon is to enroll Billy in swimming lessons. I have read that many places offer lessons for children with special needs. There is a list on the National Autism Association website of places that offer the special needs swim training, here.
4.) Spreading Awareness: I know this sounds silly. We as Autism parents are very aware of the dangers of our children wandering and take every measure to keep them safe. But many family and friends may not be so aware. It may help greatly to share information with the people in our child’s life. Let them know about the dangers of wandering and what they can do to help. The National Autism Association has a wonderful toolkit for caregivers you can print online here. I printed mine tonight. It has a checklist and tips to prevent wandering. They also have a toolkit for teachers here. Definitely print them out to use and share.
I know there is so much more that can be done to help prevent a child with Autism from wandering. This is just a small list of the things I suggest. Please feel free to comment with more suggestions. Also, if you haven’t already, apply for The Big Red Safety Box from National Autism Association. It has those alarms I wrote about, STOP signs to place around your home, the RoadID tag voucher and much more. It was such a super helpful kit when I received it. I recommend it to everyone who has a child with Autism. You can apply on their website here.
**The opinions in this blog are all of my own and not influenced by the National Autism Association or RoadID. I was not given their products for my opinions. I applied and received the Big Red Safety Box last year and loved it so much that I want to share!**