I was prompted to share these tips after reading another story about a severe autistic child that somehow managed to leave their home without an adult noticing with tragic results.
These children most of the time are not fully dressed, and in some cases only in diapers and barefooted. They usually are nonverbal and considered wanderers or escape artists. It can happen any time of the day or night, whether a parent, babysitter or grandparent is watching the child.
These incidents also happen at relatives homes and when people are off guard. There could be many people at the home for an event and the child slips away easily. Other times a child darts out of the house and is gone in an instant.
If you are planning a move and have a child on the Autism Spectrum, check the prospective neighborhood for freeways, busy intersections, fast food restaurants, lakes, rivers, streams, railroad crossings, wooded areas and note those neighbors that have outside pools in their yards.
I would take a physical walk around the streets to see if this is a secured location for your family to enter. Check out the fence and gates along the houses, see if it is easy to get in and out of the doors and garage area, porch area and how the windows in all rooms function.
The same needs to be done for relatives homes, especially if the child will be staying there over Holidays, summer vacations or spring/winter breaks. Before a scheduled visit walk the perimeters of the house and check doors, locks and windows. Walk around the streets and scout for pools and neighborhood dogs in yards.
Circulate photos of the child to neighbors and let them know a child on the Autism Spectrum is moving in or staying for awhile and give them the phone number to the house and emergency cell numbers. Make note if the child is scared of dogs, helicopters, sirens and whether the child is verbal or not. Also discuss echolalia if the child is known to repeat what they hear, since this could appear to be a stubborn streak in a kid, when in fact the child does not understand what is being discussed.
Visit the local police and fire stations with a photo and the child, if at all possible. Let them know of the causes of irritation in your child, give them photo with relevant data like age, color hair, eyes, height and weight and what type of clothing child wears. Also mention if the child is not toilet trained and likes to climb furniture or fences.
Many organizations now sell stickers you can place inside your vehicle stating a nonverbal child or a child with autism is riding and a spot for their name. There are also window decals for emergency purposes to let personnel know what room the child is located or keep at the front door so they can see this upon entrance to the home.
If one of the parents is going away for a weekend and leaving the spouse with the child on the Autism Spectrum you need to go over safety issues beforehand and make sure they understand what could happen if a door or window is left open or they should fall asleep leaving child unattended.
Do not leave kids outside alone unattended, even to answer the phone, grab something from the kitchen or use the bathroom. Bring the children indoors to do anything, no matter what city or suburb you reside in. The same with running errands and leaving keys inside the car with the child while you pay for gas or grab a newspaper, cup of coffee or donut. Someone can jump inside that car and take off in that instant. This is also true for keeping the vehicle running while putting a child in the car and running inside for one more item.
Pools need to be equipped with safety fences and locked at all times. Two eyes need to be on the child in or around the water every second and if more than one child you need another Adult.
If your child has ever escaped from the house this is a warning sign you need to take action. Everyone who works with the child needs to know this could happen and steps to take to recover the child quickly and safely.
Besides the risks of having a child that could escape the home, there are also dangers inside the home at various times of the year. During the hoidays you need to be cautious with Christmas trees and decorations, electric heaters and fire dangers.
During the summer months you are outdoors using the barbecue and the pool dangers are evident. Windows are open and screen door may not be locked at all times. If you are heading off to the store and leaving a relative to watch the child, consider bringing the child and adult with you to be on the safe side. Do not leave the child alone with a sleeping adult to run an errand.
I want to add that my son Matthew has no idea how to open the door or the front gate. I have no plans to teach him how to do this anytime soon. For safety reasons and piece of mind - we all sleep in the same room and use the second room as a toy/computer room.
An electronic signal device may be considered for the child, as well as a MedicAlert if the child is nonverbal and on medication. Child Locator MedicAlert
Safety In The Home by the Autism Society of America.
Police and Autism, Avoiding Unfortunate Situations by Dennis Debbaudt.
Emergency Decal from ASA
L.E.A.N. on Us Child Safety ID Cards
Silent No More Communication Boards these are for emergency and professional personnel to carry to communicate with children who are nonverbal and adults as well. Get a few for your family to give to police officers in your area.
Life Insurance Options for Kids with Autism
Know the Rules - Summer Safety Tips for Parents and Guardians - this is an article on the National Center for Missing & Exploited Kids website
Autism Safety Toolkit
Urinal Protocol Music Video youTube on social behavior in the boys room
Autism Safety Products