Thursday, April 22, 2010
The Unique Ability for Aspies to Lose Themselves
Nadia is diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, a mild form of autism. It is common for people with autism to wander and subsequently, sometimes, go missing. This problem becomes more dangerous with those who have trouble communicating. I have also heard that people with autism are attracted to bodies of water, making drowning a leading cause of death.
I was recently in a similar predicament as I went out to pick up a few groceries for myself. I ended up forgetting a watch was on my wrist as I priced certain items I would one day need to purchase. I sold my truck in order to pay for rent back in Colorado, so I have been dependent on the transit system here in Washington. My shopping trips only ever include as much groceries as my awesome backpack will carry, about 40 liters and 30 pounds. Every three to four weeks I have to get another 20 pound bag of dog food. This occasion was one of those trips requiring me to buy dog food. I walked across the street to make this purchase and do some more window shopping. I was very involved with my purchases, my budgeting, mental future shopping list, all the “pretty” products for sale, and the beautiful evening sky. As I approached the bus stop, the reality of where the sun was positioned in the sky and what that meant for time of day hit me… I missed the last bus of the day. It is about a 7 mile walk from the shopping center to home and I laughed at myself as I considered the foolishness of letting time run away from me and how I would now have to carry 25 pounds of groceries on my back and a 20 pound bag of dog food in my arms to get home. Needless to say, I was not looking forward to that walk and I paused for a snack before making this trek.
For caregivers of children and adults with autism, advocacy organizations recommend and provide safety tips to help head off this problem of wandering. One of the best things you can do is to let your neighbors, school staff, and other family know about autism and the chance of wandering and to ask them to keep an eye out. The National Autism Association provides a good checklist as does Autism Speaks. It is just too easy for us with an autistic mindset to find ourselves lost and needing a way home.
As it turned out, Nadia was found safe four days later by a fellow church member; Nadia was lost in an alligator infested swamp, dehydrated, and covered with bug bites. And for me, I was able to procure a ride from a friend and save myself that long walk home. Happy endings all around.