Lisa Goring, Vice President of Family Services at Autism Speaks talks in an NBC interview about the perils attached to wandering and how each child is not a once size fits all issue. She stressed the need for community education. First responders just might make the difference in preventing tragedies as in the death of Avonte Oquendo.
Senator Chuck Schumer is introducing Avonte's Law to start funding for tracking devices for children who have autism. Much like devices used for Alzheimer patients who wander, the proposed device will give parents and professionals a road map as to where to find individuals. Prior to the announcement of Avonte's death, a young parent of 2 autistic children demonstrated his proposed device in the attached video.
"The tragic end to the search for Avonte Oquendo clearly demonstrates that we need to do more to protect children with autism who are at risk of running away," said Schumer. "Thousands of families face the awful reality each and every day that their child with autism may run away. Making voluntary tracking devices available will help put parents at ease, and most importantly, help prevent future tragedies like Avonte's. By expanding the innovative program we currently have in place for at-risk Alzheimer's patients, we will help thousands of families avoid what Avonte's family just experienced.'
Intervention is vital. Tracking devices are one piece of the puzzle. Education and intervention are equally essential partners in this cause.
Our experience with a wandering 3 year old with autism was a game of cat and mouse. He would escape the house, forever interested in exploring; a Davy Crockett of his generation. The only problem was that we had no idea where or when he was going or what response he wanted from us. Dangers loomed all around us and it was an impossible situation, because he was non-verbal. His receptive language was equally unreliable.
The only way we could sleep was to put hook and eye locks on the outside of his bedroom door. It prevented night wandering. During the day was another story. If there was an escape, he would find it. One day, I saw the front door open and a flash of orange in the driveway. Then it was gone, like a speed of light his brightly colored shirt was a memory. I started to run, a marathon to the street, as if my life depended on it; only it was my child’s life that was threatened, by his own folly. My legs morphed into a gazelle’s, as I caught a glimpse of my 3 year old looking back, to see if anyone was behind him. Was that a good thing; was that interactive? Not the typical response of a diagnosed a-typical child, I thought. But he did not stop at the street. No fear in this baby boy with the bright smile to match his vivid orange tee shirt.
I took a deep breath and vaulted in the air, as I tackled my child to the ground. We missed the street and an oncoming car by a millisecond. It was then that I became the captain of my own early intervention. It was a shrill and ear piercing “No!” that came from my lungs. He wrestled to be free, but I held my guard and allowed him to feel the weight of my body as well as my words. I made no eye-contact to encourage a game, and I do believe that somewhere in that little body, he understood.
This is by no means a recipe for all. Autism is not a one size fits all story; however it is important to find the dangling carrot, to reinforce safe behavior. For autistic children, safety is threatened every day.Our son is now 25 years old, and we had to be creative with each new challenge, but he did learn with time and intervention.
Following the study, The Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics stated: Nearly half of children with ASD were reported to engage in elopement behavior, with a substantial number at risk for bodily harm. These results highlight the urgent need to develop interventions to reduce the risk of elopement, to support families coping with this issue, and to train child care professionals, educators, and first responders who are often involved when elopements occur.