The idea of a child wandering off is something no parent likes to think about, but it is a reality that needs to be considered in order to maintain a child’s safety. Parents of children on the autism spectrum typically are no strangers to this phenomenon since children with ASD are far more likely to wander than children without it. This reality is not without solutions thankfully. Here are some tips to keep your child from wandering, and to keep them safe in the event they do.
As with any problematic behavior, it is always best to start prevention strategies as soon as possible. Children with autism tend to be very rule-oriented, and you can use this to help keep them from wandering. Establish the rule when they are young that they are not to leave the house without a trusted adult present, and that when out of the house to stay where you can see them. Some parents have found it helpful to put up red signs or markers around the house that represent barriers not to cross. When out at the grocery store you can establish “safe zones” such as an arm’s length away from the shopping cart or from your side. Be sure to offer a positive reward your child can look forward to if they do well at following your rules. Many parents have also found investing in a service dog to be a great solution to help keep children inside of safe boundaries or to locate their children in the event they got lost.
Even with established rules, you will still want to be prepared for worst-case scenarios. It is always a good idea to familiarize yourself with surrounding neighbors and make them aware of your child’s needs. Part of this process should include an explanation of the increased risk your child has for wandering. Be sure to show them a picture of your child, along with your contact information so they can alert you if your child is spotted wandering. It is also a good idea to give your child’s information to the local police in advance in order to make a potential search quicker. When your child needs to go off to school, it is best to keep a flyer in their backpack with your contact information, along with a list of your child’s special needs and characteristics.
If your child’s wandering tendencies are particularly severe, there’s no shame in trying some more intense measures of safety. You can find GPS devices specifically made for children on the spectrum, as well as special locks for your home that make it more secure. There are even a few companies that produce jewelry or clothing tags that contain identification and contact information.
With all that goes into raising your child to thrive, the anxiety of your child wandering off is a very unneeded burden. By putting these strategies into practice, you can breathe a little easier, and focus on enjoying life with your kids.
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