The Autism Society Philippines (ASP) is a national, non-profit organization dedicated to the well-being of persons with autism spectrum disorder. The ASP has been in the forefront of providing services and training to families living with autism.

05 April 2015

Wandering and loss

We hear about it happening in other countries. Persons with autism are sometimes lost to their families forever after they wander away from home. But this happens in the Philippines too.

Joey*, who just turned age 8, is the child of an ASP member from Marikina. He left their home in Montalban, Rizal undetected on a Sunday in February 2015. He was found lifeless days later near a flowing body of water, with a head injury. Authorities suspect that he might have fallen off a bridge.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the bereaved family at this time of profound loss. We all mourn deeply for Joey's passing; but angels in Heaven are very likely rejoicing at the arrival of such innocence.

*Not his real name

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For us who continue to be surrounded by worldly dangers, what precautions should parents take to keep our children from wandering?

- Go over the rules with your child everyday. Give him visual cues near the exit (like a red stop sign). Work with your OT on techniques that will help.

- Update your locks. Kids with autism are very intelligent. They are able to figure out how to open locked doors over time. Change your approach as their capabilities improve.

- Introduce yourself and your family to your neighbors. Register your child as a person with a disability with your baranggay. Give them your number so they can call you, in case they see your child unaccompanied. Educate your neighbors about autism and help inspire kindness and compassion for families who live with autism.

- Put his name and your cellphone number on your child's underwear, clothes or shoes. Some even ask their children to wear ASP shirts exclusively to let people know that their child has autism, in case they are separated.

- Assign a "hintayan" zone. If a child is separated from you in your neighborhood or in places where you typically go, assign a safe place where he can wait.

- Find out where he wants to wander off to and bring it closer to home.

- Teach them how to swim. Many children with autism are attracted to water. Swimming can be a life-saving skill.

In case a child wanders, you should go to the barangay or the police first before going to social media. And once you decide to post on social media, include relevant details about the child and the circumstances (where last seen, clothes, unique behavior) and a number that will be reachable at any time (phone always charged and with load). If your child is found, update your status and take down the "Lost" poster.

Remember that Risk = Hazard x Exposure. Precautions should be taken based the risks in the environment and not the intensity of a parent's fear.


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