Never a Dull Moment! A Fathers Tips for Keeping Children Safe
June 01, 2014
By: Organization for Autism Research
Every day as the parent of children on the autism spectrum is a new adventure. Our family recently had one of those adventures when I was asked to speak at our township’s Memorial Day event. After I completed my speech, I walked down to be with my family for the laying of flowers on the tombs of veterans and the 21-gun salute. Knowing my youngest son, Michael, is very sensitive to loud noises, I wanted to make sure he was not near the rifle squad when they fired their salute.
When I got to my family, however, I could not find Michael. My wife was video recording my speech and the two older boys were attentively listening to what I had to say. After the speech, my wife thought Michael had gone off with his brothers. I found them and they thought he was with his mother.
Panic hit instantly. My wife and I started scrambling to find him, while hoping not to disrupt the ongoing events. After about a minute of searching, we found him helping place flowers on the graves of veterans. I think Michael voted with his feet that my speech was too long and boring.
Children with autism tend to wander off, particularly when in crowds. I have come to learn that crowded environments can be over-stimulating for a child on the spectrum. The crowds can also make it hard to find your child when he or she wanders off.
Wandering off is a constant danger for parents of a child with autism. Some sources indicate that kids on the spectrum are at an elevated risk for fatalities from drowning or being hit by a moving vehicle. How do you make sure your child with special needs is not at risk while allowing your other children to enjoy events and activities? It’s a delicate balancing act. As a parent, I have had to learn more about what makes a child like Michael tick.
It’s important for parents to have a plan to keep track of their children when in a crowded and noisy environment while still being engaged in the event. Making a plan is much better than being isolated at home. No one in the family wants to miss important social events. These are a few things my wife and I have learned to do
We realized long ago that having a child with autism means that there is never a dull moment. Those moments, however, come with many special ones and those are what we treasure.
David Cleary is father to four children: James, 20, who was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome in first grade; his twin sister, Beverly; John, 12; and Michael, 10, who was diagnosed with autism at 20 months. Dave works as engineer in defense aerospace and previously served as a flight officer in the Navy. His wife, Patricia Tuggle, spends many hours during the week navigating the challenges of having a child with autism and serves with the Army Reserves on the weekends. Although it’s never easy, Patricia and Dave work as a team to balance the challenges of autism with all the other aspects of family life.