I’m leaving for vacation tomorrow…I should be very excited. We haven't been on vacation in four years and we’re going to see my dad, who lives a whopping 5,000 miles from us. We’re going on a cruise—neat! We’re going to see Alaska. How wonderful does all this sound?
|I am terrified Ryan will try to climb over the sides...|
Yes, I should be excited, but instead I’m anxious and worried. Ryan is a “runner” and an escape artist. We’ll be on a ship on the open ocean and Ryan knows no fear. And we had little enough sense to get a balcony room that opens to the outside—and the ocean. I do not envision enjoying a deep sleep on this trip. Failing to wake if Ryan decides to elope and take a midnight stroll could have tragic results.
The word “elopement” connotes hearts and flowers, but it does not have a romantic significance to the autism community. Our children have a strong desire to wander and are all too frequently stealthy about it. They seem to have a sixth sense that alerts them when attention is divided. When out with Ryan I try always to hold his hand, but there are times when I simply can’t. During those times Ryan will either bolt and run off, or quietly slip away.
The National Autism Association has received a grant to address the wandering issue autism parents are all too familiar with. They are offering “The Big Red Safety Box” to families to help them prepare for an elopement. The box is available at: http://nationalautismassociation.org/big-red-safety-boxes-now-available/ and contains the following:
1) Educational materials and tools;
A Be REDy printed toolkit including:
a) A caregiver checklist;
b) A Family Wandering Emergency Plan;
c) A first-responder profile form;
d) A wandering prevention brochure;
e) A sample IEP letter
2) Two (2) Door/Window Alarms with batteries
3) One (1) RoadID Personalized, Engraved Shoe ID Tag
4) Five (5) Laminated Adhesive Stop Sign Visual Prompts for doors and windows;
5) Two (2) Safety Alert Window Clings for car or home windows
6) One (1) Red Safety Alert Wristband
I have already ordered my Big Red Safety Box, but it won’t help me on this trip. Autistic children are drawn to the water and Ryan is no exception. Fueling my fears is the recent drowning of two autistic children in the past two weeks, Owen Black (age 7) in Pensacola, Florida and Mikaela Lynch (age 9) in Clearwater, California. Two beautiful lives cut short.
Owen or Mikaela could be my child and that thought has me on constant high-alert, always needing to know exactly where Ryan is and who has their eyes on him. Home at least has a modicum of predictability about it…an unknown ship surrounded on all sides of water does not.
I’ve been asked so many times if I’m looking forward to our cruise, and usually I’ll smile and say how excited I am. The truth is quite the opposite. I am looking forward to the family time, but am most anticipating our landing back in Honolulu and coming back home where I better understand the ways Ryan can escape and where he might run. I will enjoy our vacation in hindsight when Ryan is back in the relative safety of his home. The concept of a stressful vacation is not an oxymoron for an autism parent.