As the school year draws to a close, most of us with kids start thinking about the needs associated with a child’s transition to summer, especially when it comes to the issue of summer safety. With autistic children, this can mean much more than the typical preventatives of starting a sunscreeen routine, teaching water safety and discussing stranger danger. More than ever, parents, educators, advocacy organizations, law-enforcement and the technology industry are realizing the urgent need for programs to help keep kids with autism safer.
Wandering and drowning are leading causes of death for children with autism, who often have limited communication abilities, impulsive behaviors and an impaired sense of danger. Research confirms that drowning is the leading cause of death among autistic children and and an autisitc child is more than twice as likely to drown as a typical child.
In recent years, initiatives have taken shape to try and protect individuals with autism or other conditions that lead to wandering, including:
1. AWAARE (Autism Wandering Awareness Alerts Education), was launched by a cooperation of six major autism advocacy groups to increase public understanding of autism-related wandering and reduce the number of fatalities associated with wandering.
2. Project Lifesaver, technology and education dedicated to improving safe outcomes for wandering children and adults. From their mission statement:
Project Lifesaver develops public outreach programs to educate others about the issue of wandering, and they constantly work toward developing public policy and effective law enforcement response to help save lives and “bring loved ones home.”
3. Mason Allen Medlam Foundation, founded last year by Sheila and Kenneth Medlam’s who lost their 5-year-old autistic son, Mason, to wandering-related drowning. The Medlam Foundation lobbies the United States Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee and Congress to establish the Mason Alert, a national wandering child alert program run much like the Amber Alert program for suspected child abductions.
TAKE ACTION: Sign the petition to ask the IACC for a national “Mason Alert” to protect wandering children and adults!
Photo credit: dreamstime