February 23, 2012 Prism Newsletter
By Tonia Ferguson
I am sure everyone has heard the motto, “Be Prepared”. National disasters such as flood, fire, earthquakes, tornadoes and even windstorms affect thousands of people every year. In these instances, you must be able to be prepared beforehand so you can protect yourself, your family, and community. Another disaster that hits home in the disability community is that of wandering and elopement. With little public understanding about autism-related wandering, coupled with a lack of resources, autism elopement remains a leading cause of fatalities among children and adults on the autism spectrum.
It’s important as a family to familiarize yourself with the dangers of wandering and elopement and prepare for the unexpected by developing a family emergency plan. The emergency plan may be different and unique for each family. However, knowing the actions to take for each emergency will impact the specific decisions and preparations you make as a family. Your emergency plan may include a first responder alert form or a wandering plan as well as an Individual Education Program that may ensure your child’s safety outside of the home. No matter what you include in the family emergency plan, it is critical that you are preparing your family to react in an emergency.
Once you have established your family’s emergency plan, make sure your family and community members are trained and retrained in the possible emergencies they may encounter during wandering or an elopement, the emergency procedures they should follow, any first aid or rescue procedures, and the location of emergency response equipment. Emergencies in life cannot be eliminated, but if you have an emergency plan in place and have trained your family and community to respond quickly and appropriately you can optimize efficiency, relieve anxiety, and save lives.
Being prepared is just not for scouts, we owe it to our families and communities. Join us in saving lives and create your family emergency plan today. Visit www.autismnow.org for resources and information on emergency preparedness and remember: Be prepared!
Tonia Ferguson is the Director of the Autism NOW Center.