Brooklyns Younger Years

As a parent you are taking on a full-time 24/7 job but as they get older, they become more self-sufficient and the job becomes a little less time consuming. However, as parent to a child on the Autism spectrum it can often feel like 3 full-time jobs and you wonder if it will ever become easier.

Although autism can be fatiguing physically and mentally it can also teach us a lot about ourselves.  Which helps us be a much more patient person, which is required as a parent. One of the scariest places for me to be with Brooklyn is in the social world. It can be very overwhelming and chaotic for a anyone at times but even more stimulating and mentally draining for someone on the Autism Spectrum. This is a lot all at once to process for their brain.

Regardless of the struggles I have with Brooklyn I still try to venture out every day.  To push both of our boundaries. Help teach her to stay with me and be cautious of dangers around her. One of our biggest obstetrical s  is when she see’s something that interests her, she will go for it. Great right? A curious mind she has. This is wonderful but the giant problem is that she will elope, hide, run to the water, and often bolt into the street. She is eight years old and can move fast, sometimes completely disappear. This happened once at the pool at “Wolf Lodge” in Olympia.  I found her quickly but it scared me to death the 3 minutes of her disappearance. She had left the large pool and somehow made it to the other side of the building. Unaware of my absence of course.

It is estimated nearly half of children with autism will wander or elope. This is almost four times higher than non affected children. The facts also state that 1/3 of these children are considered nonverbal and unable to communicate their name, address, or phone number. My daughter Brooklyn would be in this category. The danger is real, and I have experienced many scary moments that put this mom in search and rescue mode.

Brooklyn’s magical escapes started at a pretty young age. She would often hide behind the chairs, in the closets, and under the bed. She still hides often but bigger, so much easier to find.

One of her scariest escapes was when she was 3 years old. My mother’s side of the family decided to get together in Cannon Beach, Oregon . The house we rented was just one block from the ocean, which is both good and bad.

At the time I knew that Brooklyn always needed eyes on her. The scary moment in Cannon Beach was when I asked my family member to watch Brooklyn while I ran to the restroom. Brooklyn was seated outback in the patio chair right next to her. Very little risk, at least that’s what I thought. The backyard was fenced after all!

When returning to the back yard I looked about and asked my watcher  where my wild child went. I then searched the back yard, house, cars, and under the tables. When heading to the front I noticed the front doors had been left open. My instinct told me she must have ventured out and heading to the water. This girl has always been unafraid of water, will jump right in, sink to the bottom, and when I raise her she just laughs.

From this point I quickly called the police and started sending other family out to search for her. I began going door to door and looking in every possible nook and groove. Luckily 20 minutes later, and 5 houses down, I found her in the backyard of an empty house. The weeds were taller than her and she was sitting in the middle of them very obviously in her own little world. The look on her face was sheer wonderment and admiration. I called out to her, but the response was nothing and it appeared she did not even hear me.

Children on the Autism Spectrum often appear to be in their own world, which limits their social awareness, understanding and safety. My daughter Brooklyn is now 8 and still often (daily) does not respond to me. We work on this daily and improvement is being seen.

Children in general have problems focusing on the surroundings and the safety concerns. Kids on the Spectrum tend to have an even more difficult time. It’s not that they may not know that it is unsafe it’s just that they are internally or externally distracted by what is going on within and around them.

If your child is having these moments, then it’s important to start working with them as early as possible. When adventuring out make sure and try to teach safety skills. Every time you cross the street then ask them to “Stop, look, and listen”. Brooklyn often does not necessary understand what I am expressing to her but over repetition and time we get there. Eye contact and down to her level often helps her connect to me and listen a little better.

The above statement about teaching them may seem like the typical process with any child and kind of is, however it takes 100 times more redirecting and explaining. The main factors that increase the safety concerns include:

  • Easily distractable
  • Ability to filter out background stimulation
  • Learning and cognitive challenges
  • Very Impulsive
  • Unaware of danger
  • Difficult time being patient or waiting

In regards to these concerns I have attached below a few great street safety activity sheets. We have just incorporated them into our daily outings. I printed, cut, and laminated them to keep safe on our outings. I recommend an investment into a laminating machine; it has saved this mom lots of time!

Using these photo cards help put both verbal and visual together. Making the process a little easier!

There are so many more resources are available but one of my favorites is the item I purchased on Etsy when my daughter was 5 years old. This child safety harness was a life saver. The handle on the back is discrete and helps you keep the child a little closer at hand. The shop owner did not typically make them for larger children. My request to have a bigger one made has resulted in her offering larger directly on her site. So don’t feel hesitant to ask for modifications if needed. It’s worth the investment.

Child Safety Harness https://www.etsy.com/listing/591516903/child-safety-harness-with-adjustable

This harness helped me often to stop my bolting daughter from running into roads or jumping into the lake. She learned thru time and it definitely helped me not stress as much. Currently I would say that she stays with me 80% of the time without bolting but that does not mean it can’t or won’t happen.

The list of links below will give you different steps, products and services available to help with safety concerns. I will also soon be starting a page that will list all the products that I have implemented into our lives. One key item being the door locks to keep her from escaping the house. Safety first!

I promise improvement will come but only with time, be patient and you will get there. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions or concerns. We got this together!!

Autism Speaks-https://www.autismspeaks.org/safety-products-and-services

The Seed Center-https://seedautismcenter.com/blog/tips-to-prevent-bolting/

Autism Society-https://www.autismsociety-nc.org/wandering-safety/

Be Safe Movie-https://besafethemovie.com/

 National Autism Association-https://nationalautismassociation.org/docs/BigRedSafetyToolkit.pdf

National Autism Association-http://nac.nationalautismassociation.org/PPT/mcilwainbootcamp.pdf

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