My son with Autism is a runner. Maybe someday he’ll become a track star – as long as he learns to stay on the track! 🙂 But right now his running (also called eloping) is not safe.
We live near a forrest, a swamp, and a busy road.
When Jax is in “flight or fight mode,” his neurological difference and impulsivity make it impossible for him to determine if a situation is safe or not. He’s unaware of the severity of running into traffic, running off a cliff, or jumping into deep water without a life jacket, for example.
He’s not like me or you, where we CHOOSE to make a dangerous or risky behavior. His body does not give him a chance to assess a situation or choose a behavior.
So, we have locks and alarms on all our doors and windows. We got a fence installed.
But. He still sometimes gets out.
Call in the reinforcements!
After last summer’s run-in with the police, I wrote letter to our neighbors, packed up some homegrown raspberries as gifts, and our family went door to door introducing ourselves.
This wasn’t too bad, since we already knew most of them, but it was definitely out of my comfort zone!
Tips for Introducing a Child with Autism to Neighbors
- Write a letter/flyer to leave with the neighbor. Be sure to include your child’s name, description, a picture, triggers, distraction techniques, and your contact information. Here’s the letter we used.
- Ask the neighbors to keep the flyer on a bulletin board or other central location in their home so they can access the information as needed.
- If possible, bring the child with you to each house so neighbors can recognize him or her in the future.
- Be explicit in your request for help. Do you want neighbors to call the police immediately? Call you? Try to bring your child home? Tell them exactly what kind of help you need.
- Identify a few trusted neighbors to “run point” in an emergency. Call these neighbors for help if your child elopes. Find neighbors who are home during the times you are home. Ask who would be willing to help you search your neighborhood in the event your child elopes. Get phone numbers and program them into your phone.
- Develop ongoing relationships with your neighbors. Bring them treats and holiday cards. Help with their lawn work. Drop off produce from your garden. Don’t just hand out your letter and then disappear!
- Invite neighborhood kids to your home to play with your child. Encourage your child to make friends in the neighborhood.
- Update and redistribute your letter as your child grows or changes.
- Be nice, open, and accepting. Some neighbors might not be receptive to your requests. That’s ok. Work with the neighbors who are willing to help.
- Share your flyer with the local police department!
How have you worked with your neighbors to help keep your child with Autism safe? Do you have any tips or tricks to share?