Our Life with Autism
Any parent can tell you that even with constant vigilance, life with autism can be challenging. The worry to keep children out of harm’s way is real. But for parents of autistic children, these concerns are often even larger. One very common worry is that a child with autism wanders from a safe environment. And as we find out in our story about MedicAlert member Brandon and his family, it can happen in the blink of an eye.
Brandon's life with autism
MedicAlert member Brandon and his family experienced the benefit of using a medical ID in case of wandering, and his mom joined us to tell their story. “Our middle son Brandon was diagnosed with Autism shortly after his second birthday. Over the years, my ability to stay home and be with Brandon at all times before and after school has been a blessing, especially since he has developed a strong tendency to wander.”
She says, “Six years ago my sister-in-law told me about MedicAlert and how her best friend enrolled her daughter in MedicAlert because of her allergy to nuts. A few months later we enrolled Brandon. I am so thankful my husband and I made that decision.”
The family saw the benefits of that decision one holiday weekend after purchasing Brandon’s medical ID. “If not for Brandon’s MedicAlert band, I don’t know what would’ve happened when he wandered off at an amusement park last year during Memorial Day weekend,” his mother shared.
“We were all standing in line for the Iron Dragon for a long time. For the first time, my youngest sons met the height requirements for the rollercoaster. I was going to take them on the ride while my husband took Brandon to get some cotton candy,” she explained.
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It only took a moment
“As they walked over to the food stand, my husband had Brandon sit in the shade on a bench to avoid waiting in line. He began to look at all the food options and turned his attention from him for just moments.
After paying for his items, he looked over to see that our son was gone.”
Brandon’s mother recounted, “During that short time, Brandon had wandered over toward some other food vendors. My husband looked for him for a bit then headed back to where we were exiting the ride to see if Brandon had come back our way.”
But Brandon had not returned, and his mother shares, “Within minutes of leaving the bench, a young couple had noticed that Brandon looked lost. When they asked if he was lost, Brandon didn’t respond. Fortunately, they took him to a worker at the amusement park who noticed his MedicAlert bracelet. Shortly after, I received a call from MedicAlert telling me where Brandon was and that he was safe. Tears of relief came to my eyes.”
The outcome of this otherwise scary situation has had a lasting impact on Brandon’s parents. “I don’t know what would’ve happened to him or how my family would cope if it wasn’t for MedicAlert helping to keep him safe. We will forever trust in MedicAlert to help keep our son safe.”
What is wandering?
For autistic children and their families, wandering is a common concern. According to the National Autism Association, almost half of children with this diagnosis are at risk of wandering. This can include bolting while being directly observed by an adult, or quietly leaving an area without warning. Wandering behaviors may be due to focusing on an object of interest, running away from an overwhelming situation, anxiety, and other challenges with regulating behavior and coping with stressors.
Communication differences are also common in autism. These children may not be able to relay important details like name, address, or parents’ contact information to adults who find them. This can be true regardless of where the child is on the autism spectrum. It’s not unusual for autistic children to become fixated on an object of interest or to avoid social interaction in certain situations.
Many MedicAlert members choose a medical ID as an added layer of protection in case of wandering. For an autistic child, it’s easy to see just how valuable that protection can be, anywhere and at any time. In fact, the CDC recommends using a medical ID to help keep children who wander safe.
Source: Massachusetts General Hospital
The impacts of autism and wandering on parents
Stress about worries like wandering and difficulty communicating can have a big impact on parents. These parents devote extra energy and time to support and therapies to help overcome common challenges in autism. And the dangers of concerns like wandering mean parents must stay vigilant at all times. Many studies have identified higher rates of maternal depression, increased parenting stress, and impacts on family relationships for parents of autistic children.
For these families, developing ways to reduce worry and stress and add support is an important part of daily life.
Peace of mind for autism and wandering
For Brandon and his family, although life with autism changes daily – Brandon’s MedicAlert ID is a valuable tool for safety and peace of mind. Paired with a Protection Plan, a MedicAlert ID can ensure all important details about an autistic child’s care are clearly communicated to other adults or first responders in case of any emergency situation.