Hi. My son Jack is fifteen and has Down Syndrome, and is non verbal.
In many ways, he’s like a very young child, and in others, like a typical teenager.
He is the youngest of my four sons; the others are gone off living their lives.
I’m 62, and disabled since a couple of bouts with cancer, now in remission, but having left lasting and progressive damage. Before that, I was a self-employed systems consultant. So enough about me.
I’m getting desperate.
Jack has had periodic spells where he elopes over the years, they usually occur in the Spring, but this year it seems to be especially difficult for him to stay put.
He has a behavioral therapist who has been working with him on things like safe navigation through the streets and asking permission; the first has taken hold, the latter, not so much.
Since the beginning of May, he’s “escaped” three times, twice with what I consider at least semi-disastrous results; two instances were yesterday. The first disaster resulted in the cops being called when people stopped him; on that occasion I didn’t realize he was gone for at least 45 minutes, and while he took his communication device with him, it did not come back with him and has still not been found.
The second disaster was last evening, after he and I had spent a nice afternoon working in the yard and teaching him how to use the reel mower I bought him so he can safely help with it.
I took a phone call from my son who is scheduled to visit today. Jack was in his room. I did not set the door alarms because we weren’t done outside and I honestly thought he had gotten enough outdoor time that it wouldn’t be an issue.
About an hour later, I saw that he was gone, and almost immediately the phone rang; it was the cops from a community about a fifteen minute walk away. He had taken the time to put on a jacket and grab his wallet, which was a plus and helped them find who he belonged to.
I am getting desperate, because I’m afraid the cops are thinking I’m not providing adequate supervision, but short of keeping him, and me, as prisoners inside our home, I don’t know what to do, and Sam is sly: he knows enough to make sure I’m not watching when he tries the door, and his successful escapes have been when I was busy doing something, like yesterday, and hadn’t buttoned up the house yet.
A house arrest anklet would help find him; it wouldn’t prevent him from leaving.
I haven’t seen proximity alarms that would be impervious to a kid who knows how to use scissors. What I’ve asked for is a perimeter fence, but I got word earlier this week that the funding for something of that magnitude has been discontinued by that agency.
So I turn to you, in hopes that you have some useful suggestions for resources and solutions to help me keep him home and safe. Thank you.
Meriah Nichols is a career counselor. Solo mom to 3 (one with Down syndrome, one gifted 2E). Deaf, with C-PTSD and TBI, she’s also a gardening nerd who loves cats, Star Trek, and takes her coffee hot and black.