Friday, June 29, 2012

*Reality Check - The Never-Ending Need to Protect and Prevent our Children from Wandering

     If you are wondering if I have lost my, this is a re-post of one of the very first posts I wrote when I started blogging last June. I consider it important enough to re-post with our Independence Day just around the corner. Please read and share with your loved ones, friends and everyone in the autism community. Thank you for your support! 

     Once upon a time, everything used to function at a much slower pace. We didn't have all the obligations that we have multi-tasked into existence. Now our days are slammed-packed full of schedules for work, school and all sorts of doctor's appointments. That's not counting the scheduled & unscheduled trips to the grocery store, pharmacy or health food store for our families. And it's so very easy for us to get distracted with the new technology that we use around the clock to communicate with each other. When you add in a child or adult with special needs, the chances of that individual wandering off increase dangerously.
     Wandering is not a subject to be taken lightly, by any means. It happens more often than just the particular instances we might hear about through the media, facebook or twitter. Every time I hear about a child wandering, it makes me check in on my own young children, sometimes more than once, during the night. I immediately start sharing as many details as I possibly can about the missing child on various networks while praying for the child's safe return to their family.
     Seriously, children and adults with the autism spectrum disorder are twice as likely to wander off, succumb to prolonged exposure and probable drowning. Individuals with ASD tend to wander because they are either looking to get closer to something of interest or away from something that is bothering them. A few examples of places they might be drawn to could be a neighbor's pool, signs they might possibly recognize that leads to a local amusement park or somewhere they have happy memories of spending time. Danger is constantly lurking around the corner, just waiting for victims.
     Everyone loves family picnics or gatherings at the lake but, many times a child on the spectrum may want to escape an overload of sensory input or something that is agitating them. It is automatically assumed, that with all the people around, that the child or adult with autism would be safe. Clearly, it is impossible to guarantee that an unforeseen distraction won't provide the opportunity to an over-stimulated child or adult on the autism spectrum to wander off without notice. Wandering in children & adults with autism tends to increase in new, unfamiliar or unsecured environments such as visiting a friend's or relative's home. These situations may trigger wandering, as well as episodes of distress, meltdowns or certain anxieties in a child, or adult, with autism. Especially in warmer months, when it's natural to be and play outside.
     In dealing with our son, we have found that having a particular person with him at all times works the best. It's like being on an assignment with the secret service, you're not allowed to leave your post until you have secured a replacement. That way there's never a question as to where he is. Most of the time, Nathan is right beside me, holding my hand, or at least within arms reach of one of us. If we are at home, he may be in his own room but, the front and backdoor deadbolts are always locked and I am constantly aware of what he is doing. His room is the one place where he can relax and have control of his surroundings.
     I can't say that Nathan hasn't ever given us a scare. Approximately five years ago, my daughter and oldest son had just spent the afternoon swimming in our above ground pool but, had forgotten to remove the ladder when they were finished. We had just walked around the corner to the side garage door for a few seconds when we heard that unmistakable "splash"! Nathan had decided that he didn't want to wait until Daddy came home when we said he could swim. I have always had a rule where I would never take Vincent & Nathan swimming by myself, especially before they had learned to swim. Unfortunately, Nathan had already noticed the ladder and being way too young to understand how dangerous it was, had climbed up it, with his cardboard flip-book in his hand, and jumped in! I am so very thankful that we were nearby when Nathan decided to go swimming and that he had learned to tread water!! When his sister and I got to him, he had his head above water. He looked surprised at both what he had accomplished and that we were dragging him out of his impromptu dip in the pool. I hate to think what might have happened if we hadn't heard that "splash"and been able to pull him to safety when we did. That was an eye-opener for all of us that day. It didn't matter that the little cardboard book or the cell phone in my pocket had to be replaced, only that our precious 4 year old Nathan was alive!
     Another instance of Nathan wandering, that I was not a directly involved in, was while he was at his elementary school. Out of loyalty and respect of everyone at our school, I will not being sharing specifics. Nathan had been in one of the portables for his scheduled lab time and, when it was over, had wandered around to the front of the building. Nathan had been trusted to return to his class and had gotten distracted by the great outdoors. Thanks to one of the school secretaries, she found him standing on the grass, under a shade tree, twenty yards from the front door of the school. The experience was one that our school doesn't want to have happen ever again. It was very terrifying to even think of him trying to walk the mile and a half home or him being picked up by a stranger! I found an opportunity later that afternoon, without any unwanted distractions, and I explained to Nathan the danger of a child going off anywhere on their own without an adult.
     For more information about how we can protect our children, please feel free to visit AWAARE. There are many resources on that website, as well others not mentioned, that can be utilized to prepare, prevent and protect a child that might wander. Have a safe and wonderful July 4th with your family.

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Thursday, June 14, 2012

"Dreaming About Camp Noggin 2013!"

     I was fortunate to have had the privilege to serve as one of the camp counselors at "Camp Noggin" this last week. Camp Noggin is an autism-friendly camp that provides a place where children with the autism spectrum disorder can interact with others. Nathan, his brother, Vincent and the rest of the children were able to enjoy horseback riding, a visit from a nearby wild animal exhibit, a variety of outdoor sports and several other activities. A day out in the sun, swimming and a cookout was originally scheduled the last day of camp but, even with the weather keeping us indoors, the campers handled everything extremely well!

     It was an unbelievable experience! Now that we know how great it is, we are excited & really looking forward to attending Camp Noggin next year! I have attached a link to the newspaper article on the Autism camp that the Daily Oklahoman ran in today's paper. I hope you enjoy and share this with someone you know! 

     After reading the article on Camp Noggin, please consider making a donation to through our Family and Friends Autism Team "Nathan's Voice". Your donation goes to fund great resources in the community such as grants for education, research & this very AWESOME "Camp Noggin"! Thank YOU for your support!!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Nathan's 9th Birthday

"Happy 9th Birthday, Nathan!"

     Today, we celebrated Nathan's 9th Birthday. He had a relaxing morning playing games with his almost eleven year old brother. The three of us enjoyed a toaster sandwich and a slush from Sonic Drive-In before picking up his birthday cake. After completing the errands that we had time for, the boys cleaned up before dinner. Their father and I took them to meet Grandma and Granddad at our favorite Italian restaurant, Johnny Carino's to celebrate Nathan's ninth birthday. There is absolutely nothing like a good Italian feast and family to enjoy it with! At Grandma and Granddad's house, we had some birthday cake and visited before Nathan had to spend some of that birthday money that was burning a hole in his pocket!