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Wednesday 22 Nov 2017

If your child gets lost…would they know what to do?

Article by Stephanie Ekis, MS, CCC-SLP

June is National Safety month and one very important consideration to make is what your child will do if they ever become lost.  We probably all have memories of being lost as a child, and even if it was only for a short amount of time it may have been a very scary situation…especially for our parents.  Some children with autism may run or wander off without even any comprehension of the possible danger.

When a child is non-verbal, or communicates in a different way than typically developing children, it is important to come up with a plan and teach them the skills they need if they ever become separated from you.

Liz, very good friend of mine, shared a story with me about a trip to the mall that she made with her daughter, Samantha.  Let me first tell you a little bit about Samantha.  She is a very independent 12 year old girl with a keen eye for fashion.  She loves all things pink and sparkly.  One day, Samantha decided to venture out on her own.  Panic set in when Liz realized that Samantha was not by her side.  She immediately started looking in all of Samantha’s favorite stores with no success.  A few minutes later, Liz’s cell phone rang and a security officer at the mall told her that Samantha was safe and at the information desk with him.  You see, Liz and her husband had spent a lot of time teaching and practicing with Samantha what to do if she ever got separated from the family.  She knew to find someone who worked at the store and how to find her name and her mom’s cell phone number on her DynaVox V.  That night, the family got together and rewarded Samantha for doing the right thing, but was reminded that she is not to wander off by herself without first letting someone know.

Tip 1:     Add personal information (e.g., name, parent’s names, cell number, etc.) to your child’s communication device and practice using it.  If your child does not have a communication system, then come up with ways that they can communicate their name and the names of their parents.  For example, a medical ID bracelet or necklace can work well — as long as your child can tolerate wearing it.  If not, there are other places that personal information can be added (e.g., iron on labels in clothing, shoe tags, etc.).  Some children can be taught to carry an identification card in a wallet or fanny pack and can learn to show their identification cards if they are not able to verbalize the information.

Tip 2:     Use Social Stories™ and other visual supports that will teach your child why it is important to stay with mom or dad when out and about.

Tip 3:     Introduce your child to staff and security officers at frequently visited locations so that they know who your child is and can become familiar with way in which they communicate.

Resources:

Shoe ID tag: http://www.whosshoesid.com/

Iron on clothing labels:  http://www.labelyourstuff.com/collections/clothing-labels

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