Elopement: SAFETY QUESTION

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Mark: Our Autistic Daughter has long history of running/escape. There was a substitute one-on-one aide with her the day of incident. The substitute aide was not able to “catch” her-Daughter was found 7miles & hours later by the police. How can we hold them responsible for their negligence-thank you

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4 Comments on "Elopement: SAFETY QUESTION"

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Substitute paras are becoming more common through temp agencies. In your case, the regular para may have been out and another in school para served as a sub. This is a good time to collaborate with the school to develop a better plan for your daughter and perhaps a more appropriate placement. As a para, I found it very difficult to work with “runners.” I think it takes a specially trained person who works with a behavioral consultant and knowledgeable administrators. It is not easy.

I did see wonderful workers manage and work with these students. Most were behavioral specialists, not paras. They had special training. The school must have a better plan for her safety.

My son is also a runner, I know it can be really tough. I’ll bet that the school wants this to reoccur just as much as you do (which is to say, they don’t). I encourage you to look at them as your partner in trying to address this, rather than an enemy to hold responsible. Ask for a meeting to address this incidence, and come at it with multi-faceted response to prevent it from reoccurring.

The number one thing you and the school should be working on is behavior, and not just the running. You need a consistent approach to behavior that can be used at both home and school. We used ALL kinds of unsuccessful strategies with my son before finding one that worked – giving him something to do when problematic or unsafe behaviors arise.

For him, this is sitting on the ground with his arms around his knees. We practice this pose all the time, and use it whenever excitement/anger/etc. starts to bubble up. It really helps bring him back down.

This approach may not work for you, but I do suggest that you find a strategy that is holistic, easy to implement, and that can be used consistently in many environments.

Another thing to work on is building a safety plan, for when she does run. Look at what areas she spends most of her time in, know where the exits are, which ones can and cannot be secured, where each one leads, etc. Make sure that people in adjoining areas know to stop her if they see her. Involve school support staff, neighbors, local businesses, etc.

And finally, prepare for crisis. What will you do if she does run away again? I suggest sharing info about her (including a photo) with first responders before anything happens. Take her to meet them, if possible. Many communities have programs to help facilitate this.

Consider getting a tracking device, to help her be found more quickly. We have one through Project Lifesaver/Lojack that emits a radio signal, and police in our area are trained to track it. We’ve used it twice in eight years. It’s no substitute for behavioral strategies, but it does give some peace of mind.

This website is worth checking out: http://www.awaare.org. They have info about wandering, sample safety plans, social stories, links, and other resources.

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