My son was diagnosed with autistic disorder at the age of two. He displayed a slew of behaviors that a lot of kids with autism have such as insistence on sameness, meltdowns, biting on things that he shouldn’t be biting on, and bolting. Before Jaiden was born I had only my son Julian and I would go to a lot of different places and some of the places you guys are familiar with, such as the grocery store, the mall, the post office and even church without any worries of my child fleeing. Jaiden was an active little child right from the start and when he started walking he had this so many interesting things. He took much interest with spinning objects such as a cartwheel spinners on lawns, doors that would open and shut, lights that would flicker on and off, ceiling fans and shopping carts.
I never thought that I would ever have to hold onto my child for dear life when with a group of friends at church, at the zoo or at a childs birthday party. I found myself super stressed out whenever going to these places as Jaiden would just bolt out of nowhere. My husband and I would find out the hard way that Jaiden needed constant supervision after he would flee from our presence out into a neighbors yard because he liked the door or the porch lights. This did happen on a handful of occasions thankfully. Back then when he was young I didn’t know that this was called “elopement”. I would then frantically secure Jaiden with various items after figuring he could at any time just leave us. These items are more for the 4 and under group of kids and these items to note are:
- I used a monkey back pack leash Animal 2 in 1 Harness http://amzn.to/2q8PUPX he was so in love with it I couldn’t stand It cause I used it for safety he was just using it for tug of war!
- I used a chair with a strap and tray, looks like a big high chair what’s called Rifton chair http://www.abledata.com/product/rifton-toddler-chair-models-e760-e770-e780 we used for meals and story time because he could not sit still I thank God for Andrea who was Jaidens occupational therapist at the time as she was the one who recommended we get this for Jaiden.
- We loved to take the family on walks by the lake as we lived right across the street from it so we would keep Jaiden secure in a Maclaren stroller http://amzn.to/2poeQGc We used this stroller for years and well past the age of four for him though he looked big in it. I was thankful we were able to have something like this as I feared for his safety daily when going out on trips to the park, zoo etc.
It took a lot for my husband and I to go anywhere with the family because of how out of nowhere Jaiden would just get up and run or have a huge meltdown when we stopped him until we started to understand what his running, bolting and elopement was all about. According to research done on children with autism it is said about 49% of kids with autism elope. It is a scary thing for parents especially when you have a child who is newly diagnosed you may have a child that bolts, but I want you to understand that it is not your fault and that it is truly something that happens to our kids with special needs and autism. It is the scariest thing for any parent, stepparent, or caregiver to go through. There are stories all over the news where kids with special needs and autism are found in lakes and rivers because they have just left with no notice and wander off.
The way that I have dealt with the bolting, running and the wandering is that I have made sure that Jaidens areas are secure. That is making sure we put in a fenced in yard, placing locks on gates, locks on doors and windows to where he can’t reach them. Jaiden also has some great help from his teachers at his school in Westlake, Ohio where they do applied behavior analysis (ABA) which is a form of behavioral therapy that rewards them with a reinforcement upon achieving a desirable goal. More on ABA therapy in another blog to come.
The national autism association has an article about the percentages of our kids that flee, run, wander and or elope. Please educate yourself and others about this as you will be helping a family that may not know the risks. The article is found here:
Working with our Police Departments is also another great way to inform your community if you have a child with autism and you can explain that you are new to the area or that you have a child who is at risk for wandering. I would always keep their safety first and ask if you can have them fingerprint your child and update dental records just in case your child does go missing. I know this is a lot to take in for some of you, however it is a MUST if you have a child who does wander off.
As my son Jaiden has become older, he understands more now that he cannot wander off and he does know that he can get into all sorts of troubles if he does. It is hard for both kids that are non verbal and verbal to understand safety when they are young. As time goes on my hope is that you and your family find ways to help your child and keep him safe. Rely on God and run to him when you are in distress. Have a great week!
“Those who know your name trust you, O LORD, because you have never deserted those who seek your help.” Psalm 9:10 (GW)