Dennis Debbaudt of Port St. Lucie is the father of Brad, who has autism, and the author of many articles and books on the subject. Dennis offers tips for parents of wanderers.
1. Secure their I.D. Make sure your child always wears I.D., such as a medical alert bracelet, jogger’s shoe tag, laminated card sewn into clothing or hanging from a zipper, or a temporary tattoo.
2. Alert the neighbors.Introduce them to your child (or a photo of your child). Leave them with your name, address and phone number, and ask them to call you ASAP if they see your child unsupervised.
3. Make an emergency form. This should contain your child’s photo and physical description, favorite attractions, method(s) of communication, contact info for all caregivers and other helpful details. Always keep a copy with you and have extra printouts ready to distribute to friends, trusted neighbors and police.
4. Contact 911 call centers. Ask first responders to proactively keep your child’s identifying information in their database.
5. Make it plain. Get an autism awareness license plate or magnet for your car. These signal to first responders that someone with autism may be nearby.
6. Consult the pros. Meet with a home security expert or locksmith who can show you the latest options in alarms and locking systems.
7. Keep records.Maintain a log of your efforts to keep your child safe. You may need proof that you’re not a negligent parent.
8. Practice, practice, practice. Simulate your response to a wandering incident, similarly to planning a mock fire drill.
Find more useful tips at Debbaudt’s website, AutismRiskManagement.com.