Children with special needs are prone to wandering. According to the CDC, autism spectrum disorders (ASD) affects 1 in 110 children in the United States, but experts have yet to determine how many among these numbers will actually wander. One thing is for sure: this type of behavior can lead them to potentially dangerous and even fatal situations. Their inability to communicate properly make the situation a nightmare for parents. So it is best to explore the best methods in ensuring their safety as even the most seasoned caregivers can lose sight of a child when he wanders off.
To prevent tragedies related to wandering while at home and in school, here are some helpful tips:
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Prevent wandering at home
1. Secure your home first
Parents may contact professional security companies to ensure that the home remains secure. You may also install home security alarm systems, locks that are high above a child’s reach, door alarms, and even placing STOP signs at the exits will help.
2. GPS monitoring device
Look for reliable GPS monitoring devices that are lightweight and compact as a child can move around so much, making it fall off in the process. Trackimo comes in a small yet sturdy design with long-lasting batter life and an easy-to-use application. The Trackimo app includes a user-friendly map interface that can be viewed through a computer or mobile device. This will allow you to monitor your child’s current location in real time and even set up a geo-fence. You will receive alerts if the subject goes beyond the perimeter.
3. Make sure they are wearing an ID with complete information
There are medical ID bracelets available that come with essential information like the emergency contact person, telephone number, and any of the child’s needs (insulin shots for diabetic patients, asthma, etc.). Another option is a temporary tattoo, which contains the same information.
4. Teach your child safety skills like swimming
Teaching a child how to swim has numerous benefits, and lessons are practically available everywhere. This type of exercise have nothing but positive effects for children with autism as it serves as a social outlet to let go of stress, increase their attention span, and not to mention the numerous physical health benefits that come with swimming. It still should be put to mind that this eliminates the dangers of placing a child unsupervised in water, but it does give them an advantage during emergency situations.
Do note that this might trigger more wandering as the child develops an innate desire to be in the water. So make sure that pools are fenced and toys are removed when unused.
5. Inform the people around your neighborhood
Make sure your neighbors are aware of your child’s special needs. Better yet, you may introduce them around so in case they spot your child wandering around unsupervised, they will not hesitate to contact you. Leaving a photograph will also be helpful.
6. First responders
Make response time quicker by providing first responders key information ahead of time. Caregivers must bring all the necessary information with them. This can come in the form of handouts and should be spread around the neighborhood as well.
Prevent wandering in school
1. Mention the child’s tendency to wander in their Individualized Education Program (IEP)
The IEP is generally designed to meet a child’s individual needs. So as soon as you enroll your child in an institution, it is important that the administration and staff are aware of their tendency to wander. Note that an IEP needs to be updated and reviewed from time to time.
2. Request that all wandering incidents will be reported to the contact person
As a parent, you may request from school staff for your child to receive personal supervision if needed. Make sure that this is written in the child’s IEP as well. Personal letters written to the school administration may back up your request.
3. Document wandering-related incidents to present to school staff
Your own records will give the school insight on your child’s needs. Do include where you found your child during the incident, the reasons behind the wandering, what triggers it, any dangerous habits, and the correct way to approach a wandering child.
4. Identify what triggered wandering in the first place and find way to eliminate it
Does your child dislike extreme noise that it makes him want to leave the room? Is he easily fascinated by small animals when outdoors? The more familiar you are about whatever triggers wandering in the first place, the better you can work out on a plan with his or her school in eliminating the problem.
5. Thoroughly discuss school policies on preventing wandering
There are many schools that have security measures for children with special needs. Do not hesitate to discuss these with them to ensure that your child is safe at all times. You may also inform their pediatrician about these needs and work on ways to improve them if there is any reason to do so.
6. Let the security staff know about your child’s condition
Provide the security team with more information about your child, such as how to calm him or her down and whether or not he or she responds well to touch, sound, etc. All security should be aware of your child’s tendency to wander so they take extra note of the importance of keeping an eye on your child.
7. Safety skills and wandering prevention must be added to the child’s IEP
Health care providers and school staff should be the people you rely on when ensuring your child’s safety, so make sure you cover basic emergency skills in case they wander off.