A lot of children with Autism and Down Syndrome (among other diagnosis) love to run, run away, far… fast… and they don’t have the ability to process consequences or danger. They are focused on the instant gratification in spite of negative consequences.
Unfortunately, what this means is that a lot of parents avoid taking their children to crowded places like the circus and zoo, for fear they might bolt. Eloping they call it… there is an actual term because it is an actual, pretty serious challenge for special needs parents!
I shared a recent story about a friend of mine, it was a scary situation! What can you do ahead of time if this is a problem you face frequently?
Temporary Tattoos – There are a few options for temporary tattoos. Some have you write the number in a location on the tattoo with a marker once it’s been placed but others are fully customizable. I found several vendors, even Etsy, by searching “Temporary tattoos with phone number”. They are very reasonably priced, we are talking as low as 45 for $20,with the phone numebrs! This is a great option for crowded places. Teach older children to show the tattoo to others, no words required.
Harnesses and Leashes – There are a number of somewhat fun and stylish kid backpacks on the market that function as harnesses. Not only will many children like the style of the pack, but they also provide some weight and sensory input. You can also put some of the tiny things to keep tiny hands busy inside! Check online for “Toddler safety harnesses and leashes” for all of the options.
A GPS Tracking Device – GPS trackers for children come in all shapes, sizes and prices! Many are very reasonable starting at around $50 and going up from there. There are key fobs, clips, wrist bands, ones that sit in their pocket. Most have a monthly service plan but some you pay more in advance and no service agreement is required. Your child’s location can be seen, real time, on a mobile device. This is a little bit of an investment and potentially an ongoing cost but it could be worth it.
Another bonus of GPS tracking devices is that they can be used as the child grows and it will help them build confidence and independence when they see the freedom you are giving them. These grow with the child.
Strollers – Keeping your running child in a stroller when you are in a crowded location is kind of a given, but there are a lot of comfortable stroller options to fit every size child if it’s something that works for your family. Therapists recommend that you not belt your child in if you are watching so they can learn the behavior of sitting in their seat where there is an option to run. Of course this depends on the crowd, your ability to watch and the child.
Canine Services – Pricey, yes… but if you have the money and the ability to manage a service pet, you can get services dogs that are trained to follow children and help with eloping. It can cost upwards of $10,000 for a trained pooch though. (ouch!)
Hopefully these tips will help you deal with your little runner when you are out in public! If you have any other ideas share them with us in the comments! We want to hear from moms who have been there!