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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Lights and Humor

Friday, Aidan's MawMaw and PawPaw asked him to come spend the night so they could go to the live nativity (which it ended up being too cold and wet for) and see the Dancing Lights (a neighbor's house where the lights flash in time with music piped through an onsite radio station), then make Christmas cookies.  He did great and had lots of fun. He really loved the Dancing Lights and they watched them for 20 or 25 minutes until he said he was bored and wanted to go home. 

Well, during the Dancing Lights, a part apparently comes on when you hear a few lines from The Santa Clause a la Tim Allen. MawMaw said to Aidan "That's Santa Claus!" Aidan frowned and said, "No, MawMaw, that's not Santa Claus. That's Buzz Lightyear!"

He's right.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Elopement - The Great Escape

Not since he was around 4 years old has Aidan disappeared on us. I was at work, so I didn't have the joy of discovering he was missing or trying to find him. My mom had just gotten up and discovered that Aidan had gotten up before her and decided to let the dog out and then follow the dog out the door. Mom looked all around the house, all around the yard, and finally called 911 when she couldn't find him. He had traveled a block away, on a chilly morning, in a tshirt, diaper, and my mom's slip on shoes. A couple of construction workers had come across him and had called the cops. A neighbor who recognized Aidan tried to take him home but the men wouldn't let her until the cops arrived. 911 directed my mom to where the men waited with Aidan.  We were lucky that nothing happened to Aidan. Lots of extra locks were put on doors after this close call.

Unfortunately, not every situation like this ends so well. Children with autism have a very high rate of "elopement" - not necessarily running away for any specific purpose, just taking off exploring or with a favorite destination in mind. "[A] wandering and elopement survey found that approximately half of parents of children with autism report that their child elopes, with the behavior peaking at age four. Among these families, nearly 50% say that their child went missing long enough to cause significant concern about safety." (Science Daily)

Could your child tell who they are or where they live or who their parents are if they were to wander off? The same study found that one third of children who elope cannot give this important information. Aidan couldn't  - he wasn't even verbal at this point. Even now he couldn't give his address if asked, and isn't reliably able to give my phone number. And we've practiced it.

I don't worry as much about it now, but I used to lose sleep wondering if Aidan was going to try to wander off. And then I would in turn worry, since I had added so many locks he couldn't possibly reach, what would happen if there was a fire and he couldn't get out? Which becomes a priority?  Even now, I want to tell him how to get out the window if there is a fire, but I worry if I tell him how he will take off in the middle of the night on a whim.

Locally, we now have Project Lifesaver, currently under the auspices of the Madison County Sheriff's Department. I don't see anything similar in surrounding areas, but I'm sure it could be worked out. "Project Lifesaver provides wristband transmitters at no cost to people with Alzheimer's, Dementia, Autism, Down Syndrome or other cognitive disorders when these people have a history of wandering and becoming lost. "  There are similar programs throughout the US now and the average recovery time is around 30 minutes!

If there isn't a Project Lifesaver in your area, perhaps a medical alert bracelet (if your child will leave it on) can help with getting your child home if he or she does wander off. Preventing wandering to begin with is the hard part. I know for me it felt like (and sometimes still does for other reasons) I had to imprison my child and myself just to keep him safe. 

Have any of you dealt with elopement?