Wandering and Autism Spectrum Disorders go hand in hand and make for one major safety issue.
When you see us at the playground, you might think I am a ‘helicopter’ parent to some degree. I never intended to be that way– sure, I am a worry wart, but I believe in capable independent children. Things change, though, especially when your little dude doesn’t respond to his name, use functional speech, show you things of interest or follow directions in a timely manner. Safety issues in public places start to arise over and over again… you start to helicopter.
Most children sort of wander in a sort of rubber band pattern, stretching far enough away they turn back to a parent and return. Our G literally tried to wander into pitch darkness at an evening hayride last Fall. My husband was loading up the car, and I was in the middle of nursing baby G. And things like that could happen all the time, but we spend an exorbitant amount of energy on preventing emergencies.
Because he has, as long as I can remember, been able to unlock doors and open them, and with his propensity to wander, even family parties become stressful in ways one might not expect– we spend so much time knowing where he is every minute. “Are you with him?” “Can you see him” “G? G?!” We sound paranoid, but he hates crowds, having to engage in conversation, and he has a very poor ability to keep his sensory system regulated. LEAVING a party quietly and wandering away would be extremely enticing to him.
And now we’re in terrible two-ville, and holy moly this is not fun. Some of it could be residual adjustment and stress from starting his transition to preschool program… but we hear “No” at every turn, he hits me (he’s so little it doesn’t hurt), he knocks down his baby sister if she so much thinks about moving toward a toy of his preference, he throws things, he has sensory meltdowns, there are issues with self injury… ugh, it’s a mess. He is truly, truly a sweet kid, and CAN be the best-behaved child in a room, but he is having a rough patch that is getting out of hand. His communication limitations and very immature socio-emotional level (for his age) make for much frustration; it’s hard to balance his very diverse set of skills in my head (ya know, like he does math, but he cannot follow a direction, and can he not follow because he is having a sensory moment? a behavior problem? a processing problem? a focus problem? confusing).
It is good that he is acting out on one level because he has a sense of self, and that is great in terms of his development, but no matter how consistent I seem to be with discipline and behavior plans… it just isn’t working.
The behavior we’re facing right now makes things like wandering that much more of a concern so we are stepping up our game. It’s time to make our home safer for him. It’s time to pursue an intensive Applied Behavior Analysis program. We’ve loved Floortime, and we are continuing to learn and grow our relationship through play, but we are needing something more. So off we go down another new road… we’ll see.