Last week on the podcast, I interviewed Federal Law Enforcement Officer, autism parent, and autism first responder trainer Matt Brown on the autism registry, and why it saves lives. I promptly printed out the 2-page questionnaire and dropped it off at our local police department with Roman in tow, pausing to take this shot with our local dispatcher. (<--No, Dad, Romi isn't in the clink.) And I am breathing much easier, thankyouverymuch, because if Roman ever gets an inkling to go wandering, we've got a plan.
Apparently, half of our kiddos with autism have a tendency to wander - and not to fear-monger, but 91% of all the wandering-associated deaths are due to drowning. Roman has already tried his unsuccessful hand once in the deep end of the pool with a poorly executed "cannon box," but luckily Jeff was there to fish him out. So even though this is the second year that Roman has taken weekly swim lessons through a program at his public school, this topic still makes my palms sweat.
So home mostly covered on podcast episode 34, I wanted to touch on away - traveling with autism. This is especially timely for us, since we'll be tent camping all over the states this summer. And I hope we're not the only ones taking our Autismland Staycation on the road! In case things go off the rails, here are some great safety pointers from Maine Warden Service search and rescue expert Kevin Adam.
1. Make sure you have current pictures of your kiddos with you - either prints or on your phone - before you leave home. I can check this off my list, because there is hardly anything ELSE on my phone but pictures of the littles. (And yes, I do have a life. Sort of.)
2. When you get to a new place - campsite, hotel, a friend's house (you get the idea) - take a minute to scope out the high priority danger areas for your son or daughter. As noted above, bodies of water top the hazard list. So best to do this on your own, unless you want your kiddo to discover the most direct route to the hot tub with you. *sad face*
3. Bonus points if you figure out how long it would take a police agency to respond to this location. A call to 911 does not guarantee a quick response time. In some rural areas, it could be up to half an hour or more before the first responders arrive.
4. Wardrobe! The brighter the colors you can get your children to wear, the better. Fluorescent hats, shirts, shorts, socks, anything other blue jeans, dark shirts and clothing. This assists search and rescue mostly from the air, and helps them to be located more quickly on land or in the water. *gulp*
5. I did not see this one coming, but the more stuff they have with them, the better. This includes candy with wrappers, pencils, crayons, bobby pins, barrettes, hats, gloves, toys, identity cards, bracelets. Kevin says that you would be amazed at what searchers find in the woods. If the child only has the clothes on their back, then the only clues searchers will have are their footprints or the kids themselves. Or the hope that the kids will take their clothes off. <--which Roman would totally do, but would not litter. Because that would be awkward.
6. If you notice that your child is missing, search your surroundings very well, enlisting any help you can get, for 15-20 minutes. You'll want to check the high danger areas first, and keep someone there if you can to stave off any future danger. A catcher in the rye, if you will.
7. Do not exceed 30 minutes in your search before calling 911 with a missing persons report. If you are in a rural area - or even a suburban area - and there is a possibility that your child is in the woods or near any pool, river, lake, stream, pond, or ocean, call 911 and ask for the warden service directly.
Whoa. That got heavy quick! Sorry about that.
There is a tech option to consider also if your child is one of the wandering feet types. You might want to look into a radio chip bracelet (a non-starter for Roman on sensory grounds). Already available for people with Alzheimer's, the Federal Government is in the process of making these available for kids with autism.
PS To check out the Officer Matt Brown podcast episode, click here.