I have a confession. I’m terrible at following through when it comes to ways to help my son. This is not to be confused with being lazy. Even when I try to be lazy it’s impossible for me. I think that there is just so much that I could or should be doing that I can never keep up.
I am proactive about researching and knowing all of the things my son needs. I am up on all the latest research. I’m a webinar addict. I’ve attended countless conferences on how to be the best parent I can to my 5-year-old boy with Down syndrome. Each session I attend, I get excited. I tell myself this is it, this time I’m going to go home and do all of these wonderful things they’re telling me will help my child reach his full potential.
Then I get home from that conference or training session, tools in hand and … NOTHING. Life happens. We go to the playground. We go to a doctor’s appointment. He goes to school. I tell myself we’ll try another day. And we might. But then something comes up and it never becomes routine.
We have stacks of The Learning Program material sitting in its special spot, calling to me every day. But these research-based techniques to help my son learn are not taught to him regularly. Instead they’re a source of great guilt, a reminder that I’m not doing enough.
We’ve tried core boards and other communication tools, but they’ve caused so many fights between big and little brother that they usually stay in their assigned folder. Every time I bring them out I’m reminded why I don’t use them. Sometimes they end up shredded on the floor.
Recently, however, I finally followed through on something I’ve been talking about and telling other parents about for years now. I even wrote about it here: https://centerforfamilyinvolvementblog.org/2015/09/02/9-strategies-for-handling-an-escape-artist/
I signed my son up for Project Lifesaver.
Project Lifesaver is a tracking device program run by police departments to help keep those who have a tendency to wonder off safe. People with autism, Down syndrome, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, or any condition that causes elopement are candidates for the program.
My son has briefly disappeared twice and tried to run off many other times. But it took another news report of a child found dead after wondering off for me to finally complete this important task on our long to-do list.
The process was simple: I called our local police department. They visited us several days later and put a small device on him. I filled out paperwork including a waiver that explains that the police department is not responsible if the device fails. Within 30 minutes my son was equipped with a band. That band will allow police to find him if he ever takes off. The technology is the same as a bear-tracking device.
The system is not perfect. It’s bulky and can be taken off with scissors or a bit of force. The police officer has to come out once a month to change the battery. I have no way to track him on my phone. It seems pretty low tech.
But it’s also easy. The police officer changes the battery, not me. They keep our information on file. If my son disappears, they will act as soon as I call them. And it’s free! (**It’s free where I live. Some areas charge a $300 fee for the device. It doesn’t hurt to reach out to local advocacy groups to see if hey can help with the cost or even sponsor the police department so families who need the service can get it.)
So tonight I will sleep a bit easier knowing one big thing is check off the list. And my son is a little bit safer having done it.