Have you have ever lost sight of your child in a crowded place - like a store or playground? You stop a moment and let go of the hand to pick up a pair of jeans and when you look down he has wandered away. Only a few steps to look at something, maybe he just stood directly behind you and you lost sight for a few seconds. Maybe you have had to run through the store because he did get far from you in the minute. And you felt your heart in your chest, imagining all of the terrible things that could have happened. 

As a parent to an Autistic boy , well he will 'wander' anytime from anyplace. Even my own home or yard. At 2 years old he climbed over a 6 FOOT tall fence in a matter of just seconds as I looked down at a drink I was pouring for his older brother. Wandering, elopement, whatever you want to call it. The kid is a runner and takes off.  

We had some heavy rain here and my driveway was quite literally a little river. The kids were having a BLAST playing in the water - my Boy included! Then the Baby wanted me to help him get a boat to float in the 'river', so we went inside. I helped him grab a few army men and a little boat; but when I came back outside - guess who was GONE. I mean I was inside for less time than it takes to go pee for crying out loud!

He only 'wandered' up the hill to my dad's house. But he was out of my sight and since I went in the opposite direction to look for him - ya know I checked the road first - I had 'lost' him for longer than I was comfortable with. When you don't know where your child is minutes seem like hours. Your mind thinks up the worst scenarios possible...

Did he head to the pond?          Go to the road?         Get lost in the woods?

It's hard, really hard. Kudos to all you mommas out there who deal with this everyday and are able to keep your child safe. It is very stressful and one of the reasons parents in our position exibit PTSD symptoms. Before I give you the tips on how to help, it is extreemently important for you to hear me on this. 

Your child running off is not your fault

Ok, Now you can have your tips!

  1.  There are several tracking devices out there now that can help you to know where your child it at a moment's notice. Some are better than others, some are best suited for different types of children. AngelSense is probably the most well known and there are several agencies that will cover the cost for your child.
  2.  Alarms on windows and doors - or locks that the child cannot manage to undo. An alarm will let you know your child is on the move, but won't prevent the elopement from happening. That's why I always preferred locks. But I am lucky that my child's skills were such that he couldn't maneuver them.
  3.  Consider a trained service animal to alert you when your child starts to wander.
BONUS #4 and probably the most important thing for your sanity - Take a break!! The reality is that kids who wander need to be within ear or eyesight 100% of the time. Once I realized that I needed to just assume that when I am 'on duty' that I will likely not get anything else done. This is super tirinig for a caregiver. You need to be able to take a break. So if you can dole out the workload so that you are on duty and off duty at different times the stress will plummet. That may simply mean that you take turns with your husband. You may hire a sitter or qualify for respite from an agency. Parenting a child who wanders is not 'normal' parenting and clear boundaries need to be communicated as to who is maintaining that awareness of the child. 
And mom - it cannot always be you.


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