For those who aren’t aware, many children and adults on the spectrum (or other developmental disabilities) have a tendency to elope. Elope doesn’t only mean getting married in Vegas. It also means to “escape”. They do this for a variety of reasons or none at all. Sometimes, they are overly stimulated by loud noises or are anxious. Sometimes they are curious to explore. And sometimes, they are fixated on something they have seen in the neighborhood and are drawn to it. In my case, it is all the above. We have all sorts of locks, alarms, and have a gate in our backyard that I was lucky to install last year. It kept my son nice and safe last year through covid when special needs kids didn't have the luxury to go back to summer school. It was temporarily the perfect solution. Until, of course, to my bewilderment, he learned to climb over. Long story short, we found out the hard way that that’s what he has been doing on four separate instances he hopped the fence without us knowing (often this happens in a blink of an eye…it’s not negligent parenting). Of course, calling 911 is of no use sometimes. When I called, four rings and no answer. They called me back 15 minutes later to ask what was wrong (telling them about rape, robbery, or a lost child in retrospect sounds very effective)…and I let them know that I had since found my child. Where? In front of a home in our neighborhood playing with their toys. (thank Gd it was a wonderful and kind neighbor with knowledge of special needs and was patient enough to stay by his side until we found him).
So here is what I’m getting at for parents of special needs (my son is not the only child in the neighborhood that elopes):
1) Chimes on all doors. Windows. Even if your child isn’t doing it now or yet. You really never know. Any kind of extra locks you can invest in
2) Any kind of tracking device. We have the gizmo watch thru Verizon. Not waterproof but still effective. There are others on the market.
3) Any kind of id bracelet that includes youur child’s name, diagnosis, and phone number
And more importantly, here is what I need everyone to know if they catch someone wandering in your neighborhood (or even coming into your house or backyard):
1) sometimes, these people aren’t criminals. Sometimes, they are just kids or adults on the spectrum. My son (as we go walking on the street) often bolts out of my grip and goes into people’s homes thru their open garage. He is FAST. Don’t be alarmed.
2) always check the child’s wrist or ankle. There may be an id bracelet. Or labels on clothing.
3) call the police right away. The parent may have made a call and they can reunite the child with the parent.
4) when you talk to them, hold their hand and go close to their face. Many of them understand. Some even talk. Many have been taught their name and address and number (their speech is not always clear though). Ask them who they are and what their phone number is).
5) if you have a backyard or a basement, please please please try to keep your toys out of sight. Of course this is your property and you have the right to do as you please. But be mindful if you find a random child on your front lawn, they are most likely on the spectrum.
So sorry for this long and heavy post. But it is my child’s life. And many others. Alerting the local police department is not always enough for a parent. We should all know as much as we can! Feel free to share! I would even love a law that sends a newsletter out to the community with pictures and information on all autistic children in a neighborhood. Hopefully in due time…thank you all who have read this far!!!!
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