Oh, hey there. Sorry, you caught me off guard for a moment there. Was just looking back at some of my earliest rambles. Would you believe I've actually been at this for almost two years now? Admittedly I missed quite a few rambles in there due to various health problems, especially when I underwent surgery to remove a tumor; but yeah, it actually will be two years come October. Wow. Who'd a thunk it!
But while reading over some of those old rambles, I came across one I wrote shortly after the son of a very good friend had died and I thought maybe I should do some checking to see what has changed in those two years. The sad answer is, unfortunately, very little.
You see, one of the things we as the parents of children on the autism spectrum must deal with all too often is a behavior commonly known as "eloping". And no, it doesn't mean running off to be married on the sly; not when applied to people like my son any way. What it refers to instead is a tendency on the part of children with some form of autism to suddenly take off. Sometimes it seems as if they're trying to get away from something that has greatly disturbed them or even frightened them. In these cases they'll often just take off with no thought except to get away from whatever it is that is causing them distress with absolutely no thought to where they're going or how they're getting there. Other times they get distracted by something that fascinates them beyond all reason, like one young girl who was so fascinated by a bird she had seen that she never even noticed where she was or where she was going as she followed it until she suddenly found herself in the middle of a swamp with no clue as to how to get out. And the sad fact is that all too many of these cases end in the child's death. Not all of them by any means thank God, but enough time to give the parent of any child on the spectrum nightmares.
One of the items I covered in the original ramble was police programs that provide GPS tracking devices to families of children on the spectrum, allowing the department to track and locate a missing child with in minutes of being informed that the child has eloped. In January of 2014, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York get the Justice Department to agree to provide around $10 million dollars in grants and loans to police departments who wished to purchase the equipment after 14 year old Avonte Oquendo went missing from his school and was eventually found in the East River. Yet here it is two years later and a web search for police departments who have taken advantage of this program is sadly rather short. The equipment is available, and as far as I can tell the money is still available; but no one seems to be interested. Indeed, I've even seen articles and blogs that argue against the program, calling it "government surveillance", interference, and worse. And so our children are still eloping, and all too often, dying.
Many who can afford it have bought GPS equipment, and there is a nice selection out there. At least 9 to the best of my knowledge. Three I'm especially impressed with are Angel Sense, the Tracking Watch from Precise Innovation, and the GPS Smart Sole, though I will admit I do not have any direct experience with any of them yet. I would love to be able to actually test them out, but at least at the moment I cannot afford to. No corporate sponsorship don't you know. And while the equipment in many cases are quite reasonable (Angel Sense is currently on sale for only $59.00 for the basic set up), you still have to pay for the GPS service and monitoring. For Angel Sense, that's currently $44.95 a month with a one year contract, roughly $540.00 a year. And yes, compared to cell phone service or cable service, that's a bargain. Unfortunately it's still more than I can afford to pay right now. Nor to the best of my knowledge is there any federal or state program to help low income families pay for this technology unless their local police force has instituted the Justice Department's suggested program.
And so there we are. Watching our children like a hawk, but enjoying their presence in our lives as much as we enjoy their brothers and sisters. And so we continue, and so I will continue. Writing my little rambles and hopefully sharing a bit of what it means to be the father of a child with autism with you. Until next time then. I hope what remains of your summer is everything you could possibly want, and remember. If it's worth doing, it's worth doing with attitude!