Recently, a lot of attention has been paid towards the tendency for disabled children, particularly those affected by autism, to wander off from their families without warning. Unfortunately, such tendencies can end in unimaginable tragedy.
To prevent the occurrence of such catastrophes, researchers, families, and policymakers have since begun a two-pronged campaign under the waivers entitled “The Intellectual Disability Related Disabilities Waiver” and “Community Supports Waiver.”
In the meantime, there are some useful tips out there for parents concerned about their wandering children:
1. Secure your home with locks and alarms that will prevent your child from slipping out unnoticed.
2. Consider a tracking device worn on the wrist or ankle that will monitor the location of your child at any given time.
3. Look into getting an ID bracelet with your child’s name, home phone number, and address. In addition to their Autism diagnosis, specify any other concerns (i.e. nonverbal) to help ensure their comfort and security in potentially dangerous circumstances.
4. Teach your child to swim. This cannot be emphasized enough. The best way to ensure water safety is to teach your child the necessary survival skills to “stay afloat” in any given circumstance. It is important to prevent emergencies, but you cannot acknowledge that they may still happen. It is therefore crucial that you prepare for them.
5. Alert your neighbors so that they know about this wandering behavior and your child’s disability. Increasing the number of eyes and ears open to the possibility of these circumstances can substantially decrease the possibility of your child’s unnoticed departure.
6. Notify first responders in your area so that they become familiar with your child and their special needs. They may never need the information, but it is better to be safe than sorry.
The best way to prevent any emergency is to prepare for it. With the aforementioned tips, parents stand a better chance at protecting their children, both typically and autistically developing, from the dangers that wandering may bring.
Sara Power, Fordham University