We are in the middle of summer and all the fun outdoor activities that families love to enjoy like hiking, swimming, and boating. Although these activities are very fun and relaxing for most, when you have a child on the spectrum, they take on a whole new meaning for safety. Over the years, our family has become more safety conscience and have just a couple of policies and procedures to ensure everyone stays safe.

First, here are some facts:

  1. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, children on the Autism Spectrum may go wandering or missing at a much higher rate than other children because they are trying to escape excessive stimuli or simply looking for a place of special interest.
  1. In a 10-year analysis, 1,516 children on the spectrum were reported missing with 64 being fatalities.
  1. The most common month for wandering is June.

Second, here is a list of some preventative measures to take:

  1. Since water is incredibly attractive to children on the spectrum, enroll your child in swimming lessons. This was one thing that I am so glad we invested in. Not only do the children learn to swim, but as they grow older, they can be a swim team!
  1. When going into stores, zoos, amusement parks or shopping malls, everyone must have a hand on the shopping cart or stroller or hold another person’s hand. Our family turned this into a game to see who could hold on for the longest time or wise distance wise. Sometimes, at the end, it would turn into a treat of some sort for the kids.
  1. If your child is verbal, train them to tell you when they leave the house and where they are going to be outside. We labeled certain areas of our yard, so I would know exactly where to look. This worked great for a young child and easily transitions to the teenage years

Thirdly, here are a couple of “just in case” measures to give you peace of mind:

  1. Keep a current photo handy and easily accessible. For younger children, before going out to a public event take a photo so you know exactly what they are wearing.
  1. Another tip was to put on 2 different types of shoes. For example, buy the same tennis shoe but in two different colors. The left foot would wear the red shoe and the right foot would wear the blue shoe.
  1. Take a gauze pad and wipe your child’s skin, then place it in a zip lock bag in the freezer. This will help tracking dogs get your child’s scent to easily find them.

There are many websites that have great ideas on them to help keep your child safe. Project Life Saver is one such site. Here is a list of items from them to keep in mind if your child does go missing to help you aid the rescue searchers:

  • Make sure you understand the degree of autism of the missing person. It will make a difference in interacting with the person when located.
  • Find out if there has been anything that has attracted the attention of the person within the past 24 hrs. Have they been obsessed with a location or object, at a location, within that time.
  • Do not expect the person to reply if you are calling their name. You’ll most likely have to make visual contact to locate them. On many of the searches we have had, the person has hidden from search teams.
  • Check any location that has water, such as, pools, ponds, lakes, rivers, et al. immediately. These are points of attraction for those with autism.
  • Remember that someone with autism will, most likely, not experience fear, as we do. Don’t discount searching any location.

Saunders, G. (2009), Project Lifesaver Website: www.projectlifesaver.org

I wish you all a safe and happy summer! Until next time…