So I wanted to write a piece for Autistics Speaking Day. I wrote this blog post that was well over 2100 words, and spoke to the idea of making sure that if a child is different, don't be their first bully. It went far deeper into things than I really feel comfortable talking about in public (not so much about my parents, who despite their faults are/were generally okay, but more about the absolutely hellish experience I had in elementary school – kindergarden through 6th grade. It spoke about involuntary restraint, seclusion, bullying (just about as much by the adults and the system as the kids), acting out violently, and wandering.)
I decided instead to publish this. I drew a helpful map of my old elementary school for non-typical children like I was, so they can easily navigate their days like I was able to. It's not really comprehensive, but it's a start.
(Needless to say, I know exactly what to be hyper vigilant for as my child goes through school. And I know that my child's school nowadays has acceptable procedures for handling many of the issues I dealt with as a kid.)
For the past nearly 10 years, I've been patiently waiting for a single event to happen. In November 2003, a ton of my personal belongings walked out the door of my apartment. I was told to forget about them forever. That the government would find a way to keep them, destroy them, or auction them.
I made it my personal goal to get that equipment back. I didn't have a lot of resources to fight that battle, and I still don't. Lawyers cost tons of money, far more than the equipment could ever be worth. But what walked out that day wasn't just a pile of equipment. It was 100% of my personal data I had ever collected, EVER, in the time I had computers. In that collection is floppy disks, hard drives, zip disks, DAT tapes, basically everything I had ever done from the time I first laid hands on a keyboard (or video camera, as they took all my VHS-C and SVHS tapes with raw footage on them too). I never really shot analog, so every photo I had ever taken, from my Polaroid PDC 640 onward, gone. I think I even have webcam shots, and pictures from our school's Sony Mavica in this pile of computers. Tons of scanned photos that were taken by others, from my first flatbed scanner.
Logs from some of the first BBSes I ever connected to. Some of the first programs I ever wrote.
And what they told me on that November day, is that all of this was gone forever. Even the stuff I wrote the week before. Back then we didn't have a cloud like you kids have nowadays. We had a garden hose and a sprinkler, and we got our rainbows that way, and we liked it… But seriously. If you woke up and someone said "all your stuff is stolen. We know where it is, but you'll never see it again. You need to let go and start over…."
Sure, you're thinking – why didn't you back it up? I did. On all the media that went out the door with it. DVD-RW, gone. DAT backups? gone. If it plugged into the wall, or stored a magnetic charge, it was fair game. They took my dreamcast games, for crying out loud.
But obviously it triggered something. I filed the request in July of 2012, and the response was (after a month of research time), well… literally stating that my FBI file was larger than the Bible. I got several CDROMs, which had interesting information (including the fact that they unsuccessfully continued to attempt to indict me for other crimes (I also did not commit) until 2009with a standing grand jury. Yes, they had continued to fight to prosecute me for over 6 years afterward.). But nothing at all about the seizure except some notes they took during the raid.
I got my last CD from them in late December of 2012. In February 2013, I get a very upset call from Becky. "An FBI agent just left me a voicemail, he's looking for *YOU AND ME!* He didn't say why.". Obviously I immediately backed up a copy of everything I had offsite, then grabbed my phone and called the agent back, expecting the worst. … "I have some items we're looking to return to you. I need you to fill out some forms."
I don't have to tell you at this point my jaw just about hit the floor.
He went on to tell me about all these computers they found in a warehouse. Ones that belonged to me, from a case in 2003. I told him where to send the paperwork.
I get the letters a bit later, and my heart sank. They were authorization to return my computers, CONDITIONAL ON MY CONSENT TO WIPE THE DRIVES.
Because what I really want is the kind of computer I could afford in 2003, with no data on it. Yeahhhhhh.
It had a 30 day deadline. I redlined the sections providing consent to wipe the drives, initialed them and signed them, and sent them to the agent.
He calls and explains policy, and procedure. Tells me how lucky I am since "they don't have to return anything, according to my plea bargain"
I start to grin. Here's the turning point in that conversation.
Me: "Actually, according to my plea bargain, there's only one computer you don't have to return. The rest, I'm constitutionally entitled to due process to receive."
Agent: "Plea bargains always contain a forfeiture clause. It states we can dispose of the seized items however we like. We just like to give the opportunity to return them."
Me: "Mine, you'll find, is worded differently. The change is subtle, but important. Can you pull mine up, and read the first sentence of the forfeiture clause to me?"
Agent: "'The defendant forfeits and otherwise waives any ownership right in all items involved in the acts alleged in the Bill of Information or Bill of Indictment.' Now see, I told you…"
Me: "Read Adam's Forfeiture clause. His is the boilerplate one. He had much bigger fish to fry than I did."
Agent: "*murmering to himself as he read it, tried to compare it*. 'I don't see the difference here.'."
Me: "I'll fax over a copy for your review, so you can see the difference. This was specifically negotiated, and I should be able to enforce it in court."
Agent: "I'm just trying to do my job, and close this case out."
Me: "I understand that, but I had a deal with the US government, and they can't try to get out of their obligations under the agreement just because they're inconvenient 10 years later. This is a written and enforceable contract, and this was an inseparable part of the deal. I can't go and un-serve probation, and the government can't change their mind after the fact"
Agent: "If you can fax me the highlighted sections, I'll run this by my boss."
Me: "No problem, I'm hitting send on the fax right now. Talk to you soon!"
My lawyer thought I was crazy for worrying about this, but I demanded a 2 word change in the plea bargain. The prosecutor was anxious to close the deal, and figured it was a very minor change, he assured me it 'only changed the wording, as I'd get back anything not used in the crime anyway'. I knew otherwise.
Suddenly, the change is clear, isn't it? The court only had the right to dispose of one computer – the laptop used to connect to the Lowe's network to check my email.
Small problem for them – They never bothered doing forensics on any of my data.
The FBI agent calls back a few days later, says this is all well and good, but there's over 40 hard drives and do I really expect them to do forensics on the drives to determine what was used in the crime and what wasn't?ABSOLUTELY. I offered to tell them the serial number of the laptop used to connect to the wifi, to let them wipe that, but they stated they couldn't just take my word for it.
Then, I said, they'd better dust off their copies of encase, and get to work. Because "it'd look stupid if you had to tell a judge you didn't want to honor my civil rights because it's really hard, and time consuming, but not important enough to do over the past 10 years we've had the data"
I didn't hear from them for a few months. I figured they were mulling their options.
…3 months later…
A very upset call from Fedex to my cell phone. Apparently I missed a dropoff. And the items were very, very large. And they were not pleased about that.
"Where are the items shipping from?"
"US Department of Justice, Western District of North Carolina…. Sounds like these are important, huh?"
"That's an understatement. My wife was at an appointment, she'll be home all day tomorrow. Can you reattempt delivery then?"
"Sure. Thanks for choosing FedEx!"
I got a call from Becky the next day. Apparently, the packages were too large for the FedEx delivery driver to carry himself. Becky had to help unload and carry them. Inside, were hundreds of pounds of equipment, paperwork, videotapes, CDs, … everything. Untouched.
Over the last month, I've been firing up machines one by one, and finding to my amazement that after a decade in storage, 100% of the data was intact and recoverable. I haven't gotten to the floppy disks yet, but my Kryoflux controller should make short work of that. Then my professional grade editing SVHS deck should make viewing the videotapes a snap.
I leave you with a celebratory posting of the oldest photo I can find of myself – this is from October of 2000, on my last day at Isiah.com before they went out of business. I looked like a dweeb back then.
A few months ago I activated a Compass 597 on Ting Wireless with the eventual intent of bashing together a small PIC based solution that used the USB features (though finding a similar chipset that I could miniaturize capable of running code generated by the Arduino software and libraries would have been my preference, I'm not aware of any AVRs that have proper USB support for the necessary USB profiles to get the device to work).
As summer approached, with projects ramping up at work, and Billy demanding more attention and interacting with me more when I'm home (not that I'm complaining, he's really fun to be around and I'm glad he's learning to communicate his desire for companionship and attention to me, even if the means used are sometimes inappropriate), the reality that this would be a project I wouldn't be getting to in a reasonable time period, began to set in. And around this time, I found the Eyez-on EZ120.
I've been researching products for some time, considering organizing to get my community in touch with Project Lifesaver and periodically checking to see if LoJack SafetyNet entered my area (they haven't) (amusingly, people have told me I should put LoJack on my kid, jokingly, and are often surprised to find that LoJack actually does in fact have a product that does exactly this).
Anyway, for our needs, Billy typically will not wander away from our property. He makes very few attempts to leave our house (usually the ones he tries for are when he sees the neighbor kid playing outside, or wants mulberries from the tree outside). We have multiple layers of security, extra locks, a baby gate, an alarm system, and a few other things to discourage his attempts. (Amusingly, he is so obsessed with having things be normal that if someone carelessly leaves the baby gate open, he will close it before he realizes "oh man, I could have gotten into the kitchen and raided the snack cupboard!"). Our problem is that if he will typically wander when we are already out somewhere to get away from stimulation or noise, or to go to somewhere that looks interesting to him (at Red Robin today, he ran off and went to the arcade area, and in the past he has run into crowds and run outside in a group of people at Eastern Market). The bear mentioned in the post above serves us well, but I worry that one day he may slip out while we're on a trip, or wander from school (which has happened once before!). For those situations the bear RF based beacon will not be practical, but a GPS beacon would.
Enter the EZ120. It's a small unit, fits in your palm, mostly concealable in the closed fist of the average adult male. It looks fairly weatherproof (but not submersible). The unit is sealed, all switches are depressed and membrane based, and the USB/Charging jack has a rubber plug that goes over it when you're not charging. It's small and light, and uses GPS with a GSM radio chipset to transmit location every 5 minutes, and provides the parent with a mobile webpage they can hit with their cellphone or tablet (it works great on my Samsung Galaxy S4, and my iPad 2). The portal lets you alter some settings as well, such as a speed at which the GPS will instantly alert you (so you can for example be notified if your child enters a car), an option to disable the power button (without that, the only way to get this GPS to shut it off is to submerge it or smash it, there's not an obvious battery cover that I could find), and (most importantly) the reporting interval used so you can set it to report very fast if the child is lost, as you can cover a lot of ground in the default 5 minute interval.
We mounted Billy's GPS beacon on his shoe, as it is the one thing he is consistently wearing when we're out and about, and if we tried to use straps to mount it on his body, it would meet a swift and painful death at his earliest opportunity. The shoe for him tends to be unobtrusive, doesn't affect his ability to walk, and is a visible indicator to grownups that "hey, maybe there's something up with this kid and I should cut him some slack, or stop him if I find him alone". The bear has been an interesting conversation starter, I'm sure a box that periodically blinks is equally interesting).
Thus far, in my experience, the unit has had good coverage in the city and metro areas of Detroit (despite its SIM being from Canadian carrier Telus, the service is advertised to work for no extra charge anywhere in North America, roaming charges apply if used overseas). The predicted accuracy of the GPS (displayed on the portal) is typically 200 feet indoors, and 40 foot or less outdoors. So this isn't a device that is going to help your child if they are lost in a museum (but it will help you find what wing, and confirm they're in the building, which I suppose is a darn good start!) but if they wander outdoors, this will literally save a life.
My biggest worries when I bought it were battery life and coverage, as well as durability, size and overall reliability of the GPS signal.
Battery Life: I'm used to fantastically unrealistic claims about battery life, having used smartphones for 8 or 9 years. So when they said 48 hours, I had a flashback to my Nexus S 4G, and its fabled 7 day battery life (realistically, that ended up being 6-8 hours of battery life, even on a brand new battery. I doubt I could have gotten 7 days on that thing even with the phone in Airplane mode, but I digress). But I was pleasantly surprised to find the device stand up to its claims. While I haven't let it run down fully, I have graphed its discharge rate under typical use (for periods of up to 18 hours so far) and found that it would likely exceed 48 hours by a slight margin, though I expect the dropoff at the last 10 or so percent is pretty severe, like most Li-Ion batteries.
Coverage: The unit, like I expected, is GSM based. (CDMA chipsets for independent developers are hard to come by, and carrier cooperation is even worse) I was concerned it may be on the T-Mobile network, as they historically have been wooing machine to machine developers the longest and hardest. They also don't have the best roaming agreements and tend to charge overage for roaming. Being that the SIM is from Telus, they are likely to have highly superior coverage, as every US carrier that has a GSM network MUST partner with Telus to cover large swaths of the Canadian market, and thus they are likely to reciprocate with every GSM carrier in the US who approaches them. I won't have to worry about the internecine warfare that carriers in the US seem to engage in. Technically, this bad boy is roaming 24/7 as I'm not even in the country where the originating carrier is. I have a feeling that this unit leverages that agreement in a certain way that is low cost or free (such as doing GPRS data, or SMS, or something else that is free/almost free in their contracts).
Durability: While the unit doesn't seem to meet Milspec 810E or IP-67, it seems relatively hardened. As mentioned before, there are membrane buttons or rubber plugs over openings, and the unit feels very solid, made of thick plastic and designed for the kind of abuse a child may throw at it. Billy has kicked tables with it multiple times without any visible impact or damage to the unit.
Size: It's actually smaller than the RF based bear locator. But only by a little bit. The case provided is suitable for our needs now, but there are no direct attachment points on the unit itself. It's designed for wearing on a belt, I used a ziptie to hold it to his fake shoelaces (they're velcro shoes), you could lace it into proper tie shoes without issue. If you want to body mount it, you'll have to find a nylon strap or something yourself, and if your child doesn't want it on, there's nothing in the packaged case to meaningfully impede them from removing it. Fashioning your own attachment method outside of that should be relatively easy given size and weight, a craft oriented person could find a number of ways (including sewing a special pocket into existing clothing) to put it on their child.
Reliability: The unit has never powered off since it arrived. I charge it nightly, and check it periodically on my phone to ensure it is always working correctly. My son has kicked things wearing it, jumps a lot (it's one of his stims) and crawls sometimes, banging his shoe mounted units on the floor. I haven't seen it fail to report in, the provided website seems to maintain good uptime, and I haven't seen periods where the device was in good signal but the website didn't show an update, or showed a delay.
One thing does annoy me – there is a panic button on the device, which my son will occasionally hit as it is visually interesting to him. This triggers a parental alert to our cell phones, and sends us a link with his coordinates. It has no reinforcing feedback on the unit, thankfully, so it doesn't reinforce that behavior by making a cool sound, or anything, and we ignore it when it happens so he doesn't realize it is annoying us and keep doing it. I wish I could disable that feature but it's not a big deal for us.
But i'm glad we bought the GPS, and the $20 a month seems quite fair for what we're provided.
Related news – we got talking to our local police when they responded to a call at our neighbor's house regarding an SUV that swerved off the busy road behind our house, and basically destroyed her garage and car (thankfully missing ours by roughly 15-20 feet, good for both us and the driver as our garage is made of brick, and the neighbor's is wood). Becky asked them what would be a good time to stop by and introduce Billy to law enforcement officers and vice versa, and they got talking and it turns out the officer's kid is also a wanderer, and knew exactly what we were talking about. They apparently will keep records and photograph Billy, and update our file in the 911 dispatch system to inform officers that there is a special needs child in the home. I'm very pleased with that, so Becky will be stopping by in the next week or so to take care of that.
So we got a call from Henry Ford's Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities. They got the paperwork! (Well, that was actually a separate call earlier this week, letting me know they got it and didn't forget about us…) And they were happy to let me know that they were wanting to set Billy up for the next available appointment date.
I of course asked when that was.
"October 16th! We have an opening at 9am and noon!"
"… what? That's your earliest date?"
"Yes. We can add him to the cancellation list too, something might come up earlier, it happens from time to time"
"ok. Well, he'll be in school for a few months by then, so let's schedule it after class so it's less disruptive to his schedule. noon sounds great."
Could be worse, a parent on MyAutismTeam commented on my post there saying U of M is scheduling appointments 2 YEARS OUT. TWO WHOLE YEARS. Good lord.
Anyway, we also ordered this today. Celluar based GPS tracker should be good for when we're camping this summer. Last summer we had a minor incident where he wandered 3 rows of tents down to play with someone else's dog. Back then he was essentially nonverbal so it was extra scary. Now, he'll have GPS tracking, be trained how to swim (which he gets better at every day, 18 weeks of formal 1:1 training and swimming 3 times a week will do that, I guess!), and be equipped with a PECS to help him communicate where words fail him.
We still plan on using the teddy bear beacon/tracker for times when we expect him to try to wander off (like at Eastern Market, or at the fireworks, both of which he loves, but also loves to try to seek his own path, which obviously is unacceptable!), but the GPS will give us peace of mind if he disappears at times we don't expect him to. The GPS duty cycle and battery is supposedly good for 3 days. If we're good about keeping it plugged in at night, this should be perfect for essentially 24/7 monitoring. Not sure where we'll attach it yet, I may have to make it a waterproof shoe case. I wish I could just strap it to his ankle like a criminal's tether, but i can see him trying to focus every bit of energy on getting that off him posthaste, damaging it if necessary. (if he's one thing, it's clever and determined!).
Today, I saw Billy swim roughly 10 feet while treading water and keeping his head dry. I'm super excited about that.
Last week he was playing around near the edge of the pool at the YMCA and fell in. He swam back to safety and pulled himself out of the water. I'm also super excited about that.
Survived it. It wasn't earth shattering. I made a reasonable size deal of pushing for a outreach to the local first responders to have a meet and greet where the students can practice their social scripts, and the law enforcement/EMS/Fire can learn how to deal with various special needs first hand. They were all very interested in this idea. Let's see if that dog hunts.
Got the autism paperwork submitted to Henry Ford, let's see what happens there.
Got a batch of intact computers back from the FBI. Excitedly awaiting the rest.
My school used physical restraint in situations where there was no risk of harm, and often secluded me well into middle elementary. I spent entire afternoons in hallways or locked/unlocked rooms off the library in school, without adult supervision, because the adults lacked proper training on how to deal with children who had disabilities that caused them to be disruptive, or to 'not fit in in the classroom environment'. As my mom said "if we hadn't fought for your rights and for inclusion, you'd have spent most of your educational career hiding curled up under the principal's desk, locked in a hallway somewhere, or god knows what".
It's always in the back of my mind when dealing with schools. I mean, having giant custodians manhandle you and do prone takedowns to keep you in your hallway seat has an effect on a 1st-2nd grader. I have recollections of them experimenting with mechanical restraints too, but I'm pretty sure that didn't last long.
Anyway, these practices need to end in the United States. Children are being seriously injured or killed from improper restraints, or improper supervision. And it has no educational or therapeutic benefit.
Becky got a set of family car window stickers that are zombies from Billy for mother's day. We were all joking about eating each other, and decided Billy would make a crummy zombie because of the amount of food chaining it would take before he ate brains.
We're now in week.. 8? or 9? of swimming instruction. Things are going pretty well. The instruction is officially 6 weeks long, but I don't think anyone truly expected to go from zero to swimming like a fish in 6 weeks, at least, not from Billy. I'm just glad he's mostly okay with getting his face wet at this point.
Since we started, our weeks go like this:
Tuesday – The three of us go to Family Swim
Wednesday – Billy goes for his 1:1 swimming instruction
Thursday – The three of us go to Family Swim
So for 3 days a week, he spends at least an hour a day in the pool. It's doing wonders for his comfort level in the pool, and it's not hurting us exercise wise as grownups either.
Currently, he's able to:
Jump in the water from the side of the pool in a seated position with a swimming noodle, or these things they call swimming bubble belts. I've never been there during instruction, and I'm myopic enough where I can't see other swimmers in the pool, so rather than show a real picture, I'll just drop this google image search here.
Swim unaided for several feet, between two people or a noodle and the wall, for instance. He's got huge confidence issues with this, and it's being worked on.
Swim using arms and feet with a noodle or bubble
Place his mouth underwater and make bubbles
Use his noodle as a squirt gun by flooding it with water, then blowing on one end to make the water blow out the other.
And as parents, we've learned to:
Repeatedly tell him to swim with his mouth shut, as he tends to have this goofy permagrin that lets water in
Make sure when he tries to interact with others socially, that he's not actually being adorable and getting close so he can spit water at them and laugh his butt off
That if he does do this, and accidentally swallows the water and starts coughing, to immediately rush him to the side of the pool, and bodily throw him as far as we can away from the pool without injury, and tell him to run away from the pool. This way, when he inevitably gags (yes, we've tried stopping this, with really bad results, coughing causes this on land too), he throws up on the edge of the pool, rather than inside of it. The staff isn't thrilled about this, which occurs roughly once a week, but is happy we've been able to detect it happening and react, unlike the first week where they had to close down the pool because a few hot dogs were basically floating in it.
Using my new "Force" like superpowers of anticipating vomit is a personal accomplishment of mine as of late. The lifeguards are starting to take note when they see me running in the pool with him in my arms, and "tossing" him onto dry land. I hear the mumbles, and I can tell despite the fact I can't see them that they are making disgusted looks, but usually one of the more experienced lifeguards (or Billy's instructor, who is aware of his special needs, is also a lifeguard there) will whisper to them or shoot a look, and collectively they don't make us feel as awkward as we could. That's as close to acceptance as I could ask for for the time being, so I'll take it. (The first couple of weeks, they told us that he can't come back in because he's 'sick', but I had a chat with one of them about his gagging issues, which he has on dry land quite a bit anyway, and now I get less static when I shower him off and bring him back in)
So all in all, we have progress, and I'm happy. We're not where we want to be with water safety yet, but we're a lot closer than we were, and by this rate we'll be where we need to be by summer vacation, which is comforting.
So today Becky was trying to make some sensory bottles (as featured on MamaOT's blog here). I attempted to provide assistance in my usual ways, contributing useful advice like 'the easiest way to remove the label is WD-40, don't waste your time with scrubbers and soap, that won't work, you need a solvent'. And then material assistance in spraying them down with WD-40 outdoors. (insert regrets for opening my fat mouth here).
So when we got home tonight, Becky showed me an attempt at an earlier bottle showing the glue and glitter (or as it's known around here, "craft herpes" as it is easily spread, and tends to leave a very obvious visible sign of infection, and is incurable/irremovable). It had clumped together in this horrid goopy ball. As I'm in "problem solver" mode, rather than simply share the feeling of failure and reassure her that "next time it'll go right", I leapt into action doing what anyone would do, trying to break up the clump. After shaking it like a madman, I opened the lid and jammed my finger into the bottle.
Now, if you're sane, you're thinking "WHY IN GOD'S NAME DID YOU JAM YOUR FINGER INTO A WATER BOTTLE FULL OF GLITTER AND GLUE?". And if you know me, the answer is of course "Because Paul".
And when my finger ended up glued inside the neck of the bottle, because well, glue, I did what any normal person would do under the circumstances – panic and try to get my finger out by any means necessary. Which, because Paul, ends up meaning "covering myself, and my laptop in sticky glitter".
Then when trying to figure out the mystery of why ours was less awesome than the OT's bottles, I asked Becky to hand me the glue to make my own attempt. It too clumped (though I did not yet put in glitter). That's when I saw the glue – "Craft Glue"… "Waterproof"…. Water and hydrophobic glue don't mix. And of course, because I poured it out into the sink, there was a huge glob of hardening glue stuck to the sink. I managed to get a majority of that cleaned up, at least, and thankfully it didn't go down the drain.
This weekend, I was at Eastern Market, I was approached while enjoying an orange with my son and uncle by a guy. This happens all the time in eastern market, there's always someone circulating a petition for one reason or another.
So anyway, this guy interrupts our orange related bliss to talk about linking liquor licenses to not having expired food on the shelves, if the liquor store also sells food.
I stated I thought liquor licenses were stupid anyway, and didn't like how complicated they already are, and how they shouldn't pass laws making them more complex, and frankly, I don't understand why we require a special license to sell alcohol at all.
He agreed (!) saying that he didn't like liquor licenses either. So I asked him why he was making an already generally absurd process even more complex, especially since selling expired food is already a health department violation, and this really adds nothing but complexity to a process I already didn't support.
He explains how it would just force people to carry fresh food. I asked how, since they already were in violation of the law and they did not care. And again, that I didn't like that a special permit is required to sell alcohol.
So he started getting agitated with me about it, and I broke it down for him:
"You want me to support making a license I think should be abolished specifically because the rules surrounding them are already onerous and often absurd MORE COMPLICATED, in order to stop people who are violating the law by creating an additional law that they'd be breaking.". Then I just stare at him.
He walks past me and screams "F*** you, man" in front of me and my kid. I yelled "stay classy" as he walked away.
Am I missing something, or was that guy just crazy?
The last few months Billy has been really obsessed with swimming. Any time he sees water, some hotels, swimsuits, or anything related to swimming, he begs to go swimming.
Most people would be like "oh, that's awesome, kids love swimming! It's good exercise!" But most kids don't wander off under your nose to do whatever they want, consequences be damned either.
Accidental drowning accounted for 91% of all autism wandering related deaths the last few years. And Billy has to be physically restrained every second he's by a pool lately, because he thinks he can swim (he has had a few successful swimming events with a swim vest on) or because he wants to lay down on the edge (or crouch, yikes!) and splash his hands in the water.
With the warrmer weather coming, and his increased tendency to elope and his strong desire to be independent (he headbutted me in the face to try to walk unaided in a best buy parking lot a few weeks ago, and has been constantly trying to dart out into the parking lot before we can take his hand lately, screaming NO HAND NO HAND NO HAND! and crying his eyes out and refusing to walk if we take his hand (no way do I give into this nonsense, if he refuses to walk he gets dragged)). Not going to lie here, I was starting to get downright paranoid about the issue of him drowning.
I've taken a two prong approach to addressing wandering and drowning.
Secure the perimeter: our house already has a security system we use in annunciator mode at all times, and leave set to "stay instant" all night. But we are not at our house much in the summer. I can't fortify my parent's house, a DNR cabin, a hotel room, or a tent. But I can buy one of these (which I will review when I get it) that allows me to prevent doors from being opened. That should take care of everything but the tent, and I have some ideas on that front.
Address the risk: I do not have a pool, nor a friend with one. How should I teach my child to swim (especially when he doesn't listen to me half the time anyway?) Fortunately, the YMCA has the answer to that! The YMCA in Birmingham (the detroit suburb where I work, about 20 minutes from my house) has no less than 4 special needs swim instructors who are able to perform a 6 week, 1:1 swimming lesson to Billy that should address this. I also took the opportunity to sign the family up for access to the YMCA so we can help give him outlet for his swimming needs, and also accommodate Becky's longstanding request to join a gym with childcare. (Talk about a solid win!)
Anyway the swim instruction starts Wednesday so I'll update everyone as to his progress.
Interesting story during our tour, the lady signing us up was making small chat about things, and was aware of our special needs swimming class needs and the impetus, and asked if we had any questions at the end of our tour. I asked if there was any policy on whether we can practice swimming with Billy fully clothed in street clothes, including shoes. She was caught off guard by this, then suddenly you could see it click in her head why we would want to do this, and she got this look that seemed like a cross between understanding, sympathy, and horror. Apparently that can be worked out with the instructor, which is good. 🙂
If you would like to learn more about autism and wandering, please visit the National Autism Association's excellent site on wandering here
And on a lighter note, here he is crashed out on the couch:
The personal website of Paul Timmins – Telecommunications expert, father.