Wednesday, November 13, 2013

When an Autistic Child Wanders Off

The New York Times has a column here on the problem of autistic children who wander off.  Apparently as many as 49 percent of autistic children wander at some point.  An Amber alert can only be used for a child who is abducted.  The column calls for a national program on how to prevent wandering in autistic children.

Yesterday in a mall I saw a man, hunched over, talking loudly to himself.  The talk didn't seem to make any sense.  I didn't do anything, feeling that I had no right to intrude on him.

But now I'm thinking I was wrong.  He probably was disabled in some way, and perhaps had wandered off from a caretaker.

So here's my suggestion:  how about a public awareness campaign with instructions on what to do when seeing a clearly disabled child or adult wandering on their own.  Perhaps we could be instructed to call 911--I almost did that.  But I'm always afraid of overloading the 911 centers with non-serious calls.

I think all of the other suggestions are valuable, but giving the public an easy way to alert authorities when seeing a wandering disabled person might be very helpful.  Of course there would be false alarm calls, but surely these are less harmful than the dangers an autistic child or adult might encounter on their own.

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