By Claudia Hailwood
It can be SO FRIGHTENING to REALIZE YOUR CHILD IS MISSING!! To top it off he/she is NON-VERBAL or HAS LIMITED VERBAL SKILLS!! Here are some things you can do to ease your mind:
MAKE A FLYER
That's right, make a flyer. Put the MOST CURRENT picture of your child's face on it. Add to this flyer: their first name, if your child is verbal/non-verbal. Then, describe what your child looks like while they are "stimming." In other words, does your child MAKE SOUNDS, ROCKS BACK AND FORTH, FLAPS HANDS, etc., or all of the above? Most IMPORTANTLY of all, add to this flyer how to APPROACH your child and how to GET THEM CALM. Mention what their favorite song is if you sing to them to get them calm, or whatever you yourself use that you know WORKS to calm your child in a personal crisis.
This can be extremely helpful as most people like to help a neighbor out!
SAFETY ALERT SYSTEMS
Safety Alert, Inc. S.A.I. is one example of this. They are a company that is San Diego County Based. See what your county offers if you don't live in San Diego. These systems can literally be a LIFESAVER for your child. S.A.I. for example, is a 24/7 Program that works in conjunction with PERT (Psychiatric Emergency Response Team) as well as Regional Center. Bear in mind S.A.I. is not to be used in place of 911. 911 is 911!! There is no other replacement for it. You can find them here: http://www.safetyalert.net/
For non-San Diego residents, you may want to look up "safety alert systems" or keep on scrolling. Here's some good ones: http://nationalautismassociation.org/meet-the-police/ and https://www.nami.org/Find-Support/Family-Members-and-Caregivers/Finding-a-Missing-Loved-One
DISABILITY INDEPENDENCE GROUP
As your child becomes an ADULT they can have a pre-made ID card that they can show persons when they are in a crisis that will basically "spell it out" for the other adults should they lack their words because, um, they are having a crisis!!! Disability Independence Group will personalize ID cards for your child and if they are a young adult/teenager, they can carry it around in their wallet. You can train your child to use it when their words aren't coming out in a time of personal crisis (e.g., there has been an un-expected change in their schedule, or, if they are drivers, they've just been pulled over for the first time, etc.). Look them up and click on "THE WALLET CARD." https://www.justdigit.org/
TAKE ME HOME PROGRAM
In case you didn't know, there are programs out there that you can register your child into that have a database and once in their system, your child's name will appear each time you dial 911 to report them missing/having a crisis/etc. Persons can self-enroll (if your child is an adult) or you, the parent can enroll your own child. It is a very personalized and specialized file where you can tailor it to describe your child exactly to the tee for Officers of the Law. This program was started by a caring man who was an Officer of the Law himself as well as a parent of a child with Autism. As his child grew into an adult, this father became more aware and concerned by the real possible DANGERS persons with Autism can run due to potential MISCOMMUNICATION with the LAW. Does your child like to give cops hugs? Does he/she like to invade a person's personal space and lock eyes with them? Do they like shiny objects, AKA badges, or has a fascination with guns? Maybe? Read on.
Here is the Take Me Home Registry: http://www.sdsheriff.net/tmh/index.html
But, what if I don't live in San Diego County????? Read on for what you can do...
CREATE AN INFORMATIVE HAND-OUT
That's right, just like your FLYER that you have made and distributed to all your new neighbors (hopefully), you can also make a one-page handout. But, why?? So you can hand it to your local Police Chief, silly!! That's right, give your local Police Chief a call and ask to meet with them in person if they aren't too busy. Otherwise, go to your local Police Station (if you live in a small town, even better!) and introduce your child to the staff. Get the staff familiarized with your child as much as humanly possible. DON'T BE SHY!! This could be a matter of Iife and death down the line if your child has a crisis and some unknowing terrified pedestrian calls 911 on them. YOU DO NOT WANT your child to be reported as another ACCIDENTAL SHOOTING, do you? Cops are trained to use aggressive force and are on the alert when they get called into action for a "situation."
Unless they know your child's name, they will assume it is a dangerous situation until they arrive and (hopefully) recognize your child. IF HE/SHE was IN THE SYSTEM as a person with AUTISM with a full description of what they look like when they are having a crisis and HOW TO APPROACH THEM SAFELY, the police might be better prepared to help your child out. BE PROACTIVE, it may just save your child's life.