Wandering, Autism, and Emelie

It’s the little things we don’t talk about or rarely see any longer. Em has been a bolter, runner, eloper, whatever term you assign to it, doesn’t change what she is capable of. As she’s gotten older, it’s has gotten better. Last night though, I feared to let her walk off steam as she was agitated and angry. I didn’t want her to walk out the door and not come back.

When she was little we always had to keep a close eye on her. I remember staying in the house with her all the time. The screen latched with a hook and eye and the main doors closed, locked, dead bolted and at the one place chained in place. I felt like a prisoner but I was scared for my daughter. We used to think she was just prone to wandering. It frustrated Christian to no end.

We learned if we took her to the store, as long as someone had her hand and she had her blanket those trips would go smoother in regards to wandering. We’d still deal with sensory overload but we could get her home without losing her. It helped that most of the time up until about six months ago she rode in the cart. Thankfully she didn’t protest and asked as she could curl into herself with her hood up shutting out the world.

Then we moved. We were terrified of what was going to happen. At first we didn’t worry about her running away from school. Before we moved, we lived far enough away from the school she had to be driven or take a school bus there. She had no sense of direction so she would hide in a corner. She didn’t know how to get home. We did worry about the running from home. We lived off a busy street. There were a few times I lost her in the chase, all the while her screaming at me like I was a mass murderer wanting to kill her.

Since the school had never encountered it when we wrote up her initial transitional IEP from a big elementary school to the intermediate school (prior to our move) they weren’t worried about her running. I pointed out that we lived four blocks away. Our church was across the street with our Pastor being close too. AND there were several busy streets and when she ran she never practiced good safety measures. They still weren’t worried.

I lost hours of sleep over her safety. When we moved here we still didn’t have the Autism diagnosis. The school here is in a much quieter community with about one tenth or less of the traffic we used to have, yet still has semis. The school is still close enough for her to “run” home if things go bad. We did tell the school she was a runner but we weren’t sure how it would play out in a new environment.

She only ran from home once that year. In October and Christian was afraid for her as he was suppose to walk her to school. She didn’t go far, the backyard. He managed to coax her back in the house and stay with her until I got home. We got him to school, late. And poor Em was so upset; I stayed with her at home that day.

That day, when she calmed down we talked about why we were scared. So she helped us established some ground rules. HOME = Safety. She can run through the whole house. She can find a room to be “safe” in but she is NOT to run away from home. She has to STAY INSIDE. And she has. She even now will tell us or rather scream at us on those days: I need space. Leave me alone. And usually within 5-10 minutes is able to come down and discuss what happened as best as she can. Which sometimes isn’t a lot of information or she just doesn’t know.

Unfortunately she employed that same technique at school. She’d run and “hide” in the school. They finally got her to understand she can’t do that there. She understood as much as you can tell/expect of a child on the spectrum to understand when they are in fight/flight. They gave her a few options. And up until the one field trip towards the end of the school year, she followed those rules pretty good. However, the minute they took a safety net away (chewing gum) in her eyes, it was no longer a “safe” environment, she was coming home. She ALMOST left the school grounds. She was outside the building. The school now sees what we’ve seen all along. Em has the potential during a sensory overload/meltdown to run. 

Why am I telling you this? Em is one of the few that is older and can be redirected although some older kids still run. You hear about kids on the spectrum that get away from their caregivers, homes and schools that have autism. You blink sometimes and the kids are gone. I wish I’d found the Qr Code ID product sooner. It would helped in the sense that I’d know there is one identifying feature she has when with the school on a field trip, in a store wandering away, or if she had managed to slip through any of our safety nets. I’d still have panicked.

These kids are strong. They are smart. They are able to disappear of an eye. Even the most proactive situations can change in a heartbeat. At least we can do a little something to try and find a way to ID our kids when some can’t or won’t talk. That’s why the free account and the limitless smart code scan objects they offer are amazing and it’s created by someone who has been in the shoes that I’m talking about. They understand the parent’s worst fears and nightmares when you have a child that wanders. That’s why this product works in real time. They realize that our lives change daily and needing to keep the information accurate is the key to getting the kids home quickly.

Now that Em is older she can still wander but it’s more about getting information in her hands for those times when she’s so overwhelmed she can’t talk or she needs space away from someone who may try to help her in whatever situation. Qr Code ID realized that and is making other options available for people like Em. It’s not just for kids anymore. It’s for people who struggle to communicate their conditions/needs and information in real time and who to contact for them.

I’m glad I could share Em’s story with you. The lessons from then to now and how things sometimes change yet still remain the same. Em still has the potential to be a runner. We still fear for her safety in those moments. It’s just nice to know that we aren’t alone in our fears and sometimes there are options to protect her. That’s progress and innovation. That comes with awareness and understanding.

I don’t normally endorse a product but I’d recommend checking them out. Go to http://www.qrcodeid.org and see if it’s a product you or someone you know would benefit from!



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