Autism Safety Measures

I realized that not all homes are Rhema-proofed when we visited my sister over a year ago.

Rhema and her older cousin Lexi were sitting in the living room watching TV, while my sister and I prepared dinner. The girls were being “watched” by my brother-in-law in the living room. Rhema was in a T-shirt and her… unmentionables. She always removes her pants to get comfortable. (It’s still humorous to us when we visit someone’s house, and Rhema takes off her pants as soon as we get in the door. The host will always say, “Oh! Does she need to use the restroom?” “Nope,” we say, “She’s just making herself at home.”)

I was chopping tomatoes, and my sister and I were laughing about something in the kitchen. I suddenly realized that her husband was in the kitchen laughing along with us.

Instantly, I knew.

I ran into the living room. Lexi was in her same spot on the couch, mesmerized by the TV. Rhema was long gone, and the front door to the house was swinging wide open. The adults ran out of the house, up and down the streets, calling Rhema’s name.

I remembered a Nicholas Sparks book I’d read years before I had children called The Rescue. It was about a young, speech-delayed boy lost in the woods in the middle of a storm. The mother was a nervous wreck because she knew the boy might not answer to his name being called. Just like Rhema, I thought. She won’t call out, she won’t respond to her name. How will we find her?

Thankfully, mercifully, it did not take long to find her. She was beneath the deck of a house, crouched on the gravel. I found her there, barefoot, with no pants, happily playing with rocks.

I’m here to tell this story so I guess I did not have a heart attack.


Rhema, is for the most part, fearless. She has no sense of danger. She bolts. She wanders, although I believe she has a destination in mind – (a park she saw once or a curious tree we passed in the car), she seems to have no real concept of space and time. She’s quite determined, quite resourceful, and we now have more than enough escape artist stories. Although she has gotten so much better at responding to her name, she cannot tell you her name if asked.

So. After brainstorming with Carrie, whose daughter wears an ID necklace,  I would like to present my latest attempt at risk management:

hope_bracelet2 rhema_bracelet2

Medical ID bracelets from N-Style ID.

Both girls have them. Hope’s bracelet lists her multiple food allergies and asthma. Rhema’s has her name and phone numbers. (Of course, Rhema did not want to wear it at first but seems to have adjusted.) Our next step is to use the MedicAlert system, which uses an RF tag and can contact families within minutes of a child’s disappearance. (I believe JoyMama uses a similar program called Project Lifesaver).


*Tanya at Teen Autism has written some very helpful and informative posts on Autism Safety and Risk Management.

12 thoughts on “Autism Safety Measures

  1. there is nothing more frightening


    matt and i used to think we had a system. until we realized one day that we each though the other was ‘on watch’

    a minute and a half of hell (i was sure it was half an hour – it wasn’t)

    we now officially tag out

    the bracelet is a great idea

  2. We went through hiding…Brenden would hide anywhere. He loves small tight spaces to this day. The worst was when he was two and hid in the bread racks at the bread store. I was 9 months pregnant (2 days overdue actually) and looked up and he was no where to be found. Gone. I remembered seeing a man leave out the corner of my eye and get in a van…I was panicked. It was perhaps 3 minutes before we found him but it was the longest three minutes of my life. He continued to do this until he was about 9 or 10…never coming out when called to….

  3. How frightening! I’m glad you found Rhema quickly. Wonder how many years that took off your life!

    Kayla likes to wander. It just takes a second. Usually happens at doctor offices when I’m distracted by filling out paperwork or making an appointment or something.

    Once she tried to break out of our hotel room in the middle of the night. Good thing I had the security chain on or she would have been down the hall. I use temporary tattoos when we travel, but nothing just for every day. It helps that Kayla hates outside so most of her wanderings are in buildings.

  4. When Nigel was Rhema’s age, he also could not tell people his name when asked, although he knew it. It was so scary the times that he bolted or wandered. One time he was lost for over half and hour! It was so horrible. I am very fortunate that he was always found safe and sound. And I am so glad that you found Rhema quickly! I would never want anyone to go through that half hour I had years ago!

  5. what a beautiful bracelet! im going to get one for my daughter. we had the regular gold medical ID bracelet from a very nice jeweler shop, but it broke. then it broke again (i guess real gold is quite soft). then, the red paint on the front wore off. plus, the people who engraved it spelled Autism AND seizures wrong. ummmmm, yeah. that was a super helpful bracelet for 100 bucks, huh?!?!?

  6. I have had that exact same coronary! Praise God she is wearing the bracelet. Reid did “outgrow” that propensity to bolt. At one point we considered the GPS tracking device they can embed, but are grateful not to have had to resort to that after all. How ’bout a therapy dog for Rhema? Our companion dog flunkie (partially trained with bad hips) used to track Reid and park himself in front of the house he’d entered. He was a helpful marker as Allie and I circled the neighborhood searching and shouting. Of course, a dog serves so many other functions as well. Down the road, something to research or get on a waiting list.

  7. Scary stuff. We have the fearlessness factor going on too, and not being able to say her name, though Joy is much less an escape artist than Rhema if doors are at least closed.

    The extra security of a tracking device is a good thing to have. I should get back with the program with labeling Joy’s clothing with name & phone number (the Project Lifesaver tag is a fine for tracking, but doesn’t have any printed info actually on it if someone random finds her before the authorities do.)

  8. That is a great idea – we could have used something like that when our twins were younger. They pulled some disappearing acts (even snuck out of our locked apt when they were 2). It’s sooo scary, especially knowing they wouldn’t really be able to communicate with anyone. Bitty is not really inclined to wander like they did (thank goodness!) but this might be helpful for him too, just in case. Thanks for the info!

  9. Pingback: It Happened Again « Autism In a Word

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