Wandering and elopement behaviors can pose unique safety risks for children and adults on the autism spectrum. Luckily, there are many accessible tools to help keep these individuals safe. Below, Milestones Program Director Beth Thompson highlights some great tips and resources to utilize if your loved one is one of the many individuals with ASD who are prone to wandering.
Take advantage of free resources – The National Autism Association is currently accepting applications for their very popular, free Big Red Safety Box – the box includes 2 GE wireless door or window alarms with batteries, a Medicalert pendant, bracket or shoe tag, safety alert window clings for homes and cars and much more.
Our very own Northeast Ohio Connecting for Kids also has wandering safety kits for local families. There is no cost for their kit and families can be connected with parents near them that may be dealing with the same elopement issues.
Contact your local County Board of Developmental Disabilities (CBDD) – If your student, child or client is struggling with behaviors that may pose safety risks for them it’s important you notify the County Board of Developmental Disabilities that the individual is connected to. County Boards of DD can sometimes assist in schools, homes and in the community to develop behavioral plans that will help your loved one stay safe.
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Jenna Newman of Mentor knew that if her young son with autism ever needed help or had an emergency, the Mentor Fire Department would be the first ones contacted. Concerned that first responders may not know how to interact with her son and children like him, Newman teamed up with the Mentor Fire Department to start a free fire safety story-time for kids with special needs. The program was designed to build relationships between local children and firefighters by including shared experiences, such as story-time, a joint activity, and a trip to the parking lot for a tour by the firefighters of firetrucks.
“My son went from not wanting to do anything with any of it, to now sitting by the firemen, high-fiving them, listening to the story and doing the activities; he is really loving the program!” said Newman. “He has made some awesome friends with these heroes.”
The fire safety story-time program was such a success that the nearby Willoughby Fire Department contacted Newman to get the program started at their station as well. However, Newman’s efforts of helping the fire departments didn’t end there. The mother of four also helped to provide new icon cards to the fire departments. These small cards, which include icons of things such as people and body parts, can be used by first responders to engage with individuals with communication needs, and they are now on each truck at both the Mentor and Willoughby fire departments.
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Last month, over 100 first responders gathered at the La Casa Bella Party Center in Oakwood Village, OH, for a training about autism and how to interact with individuals with ASD. The training, led by Milestones Autism Resources Program Director Beth Thompson, allowed participants to learn how to handle common issues like eloping, sensory overload, and communication challenges. At least 40 local police departments were represented as well as firefighters, school security and special agents from the FBI.
“The autism community knows the danger of first responders not receiving the training they need to work with individuals on the autism spectrum,” said Thompson. “Milestones is proud to provide that education to our community of first responders.”
During the training, the crowd also heard from a panel of self-advocates and parents of individuals with ASD. Nathan Morgan, who joined the Milestones team in February as an Early Childhood & School Age Coordinator, was one of the panelists in attendance.
“As a social worker, it was enlightening to hear the diverse perspective of the officers,” said Morgan. “As an autism self-advocate, it was empowering to share my voice and perspectives to promote positive interactions between persons with autism, their loved ones, and the officers serving the community.”
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