Thursday, January 23, 2014

Hold My Hand

Sometimes, especially on mornings when the wind chill temperature is below zero, I'm a tad jealous of all the other parents.  The other parents who drive around the circle, park their car, watch their child open the car door and bounce out with his backpack and skip into the school.

I, on the other hand, have to get out of the car.  Help open the car door and sometimes have to help do the buckle depending on how Brian's fine motor skills are operating that morning.  Help him get his backpack on his back, pull him back sharply from trying to run in the parking lot without looking for cars.  Then he always looks up at me and independently slips his little hand into mine.

Every morning I smile when I feel that little hand in my hand.  It's such a big deal.  There was a time that we had to do ABA trials to get him to hold someone's hand.  Drive to a parking lot, get out of the car, hold Mom's hand- oh you get a skittle!  Yes, I will admit we were a family that used food reinforcers when it came to learning safety rules (and potty training!).  Take five steps, still holding Mom's hand?  Oh, another skittle!  Not holding Mom's hand and have bolted across the parking lot?  Back to the car you go to start all over again.  Whole afternoons working on this.

I also smile because when his little hand is in mine, he is safe.

I'm not walking my child into the school because I'm an overprotective mom.  I have another son, just 18 months older than Brian, that is allowed to walk home from school with his peers.  I'm walking my son into school because he can be a wanderer, like so many children on the spectrum.

He's impulsive. He hears that train that runs a block over from his school there is no doubt in my mind he would decide to go check it out.  He has no idea of stranger danger.  Someone asks him to go with them, he will.  He still doesn't realize that moving cars won't always stop and can hurt him.  He loves water and just recently was found in open water near a lake when ice fishing with his father.  If he was ever to wander off and get lost he might be able to tell someone his first name, but that's it.

Avonte Oquendo disappeared from his school.  The place his parents dropped him off every morning, assuming he was safe and taken care of.  The place that had an IEP and plans set up for Avonte's eloping behavior.  The place that was equipped with cameras and security guards.  Avonte's remains were found recently in the water.  That was not the ending any of us wanted for his family.  I had held on to hope as I'm sure they did, and all the other parents out there following the story.  Stories like Avonte's, stories I hear all too frequently, go right to my core.  Because I know that could be my boy.

These are facts taken from the National Autism Association and I know I have shared them before, but I'm not sure they can be shared enough.

  • Roughly half, or 48%, of children with an ASD attempt to elope from a safe environment, a rate nearly four times higher than their unaffected siblings
  • In 2009, 2010, and 2011, accidental drowning accounted for 91% total U.S. deaths reported in children with an ASD ages 14 and younger subsequent to wandering/elopement.
  • More than one third of ASD children who wander/elope are never or rarely able to communicate their name, address, or phone number
  • Two in three parents of elopers reported their missing children had a “close call” with a traffic injury
  • 32% of parents reported a “close call” with a possible drowning
  • Wandering was ranked among the most stressful ASD behaviors by 58% of parents of elopers

This is why I walk Brian in everyday.  This is why I smile when he takes my hand and I never take it for granted.

If you haven't already please check out NAA's printable toolkit for wandering or order yourself a Big Red Safety Box.  You can never be prepared enough!

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