Thursday, July 14, 2011

Stranger Danger & Autism

"When is a child ready to go it alone, anyway?"  That's the question James Barron poses in his July 13, 2011 article "7 Blocks to Walk, Brooklyn Boy Never Got Home."  And according to another report, the 8 year old boy, Lieby  Kletzky who was brutally murdered, may have had autism. 

I don't have an answer for James Barron.  And I don't know whether or not Lieby Kletzky had autism. 

But I do know, Lieby's death is every parents nightmare.  I know it's made me sick to my stomach ever since I heard the story yesterday morning.  I know my heart aches for this poor little boy and his family.  I know the tragedy has only emphasized the vulnerability of my own child.  And it's made me aware of all the mixed messages we have sent. 

Since the days of Early Intervention, we've prompted The Boy to "say hello" to whomever he meets.  I can't tell you how many times I've allowed him to walk off with therapists (strangers - men and women), his hand so willingly wrapping around theirs.  The Boy goes so easily, without looking back, without fear or any kind of apprehension.

Whenever we go out to crowded places, I place a name tag (with our phone numbers) around his neck and try to explain to him to ask for help if he gets lost.  But does he understand that concept?  Lost.  And in light of Lieby Kletzky story - who can The Boy trust to ask for help?        

I ask The Boy to say hello and praise him for "good talking."  How can I expect him not to talk to strangers?  How do I explain "stranger" as a concept?  And will he understand.     

How do you teach a child on the spectrum to distinguish strangers from people who may help, if there isn't a police officer around?

How do you keep your child safe when your child has no "safety awareness?"

I just found this book Social Story: Dealing with Bullies and Strangers and I will be ordering.  If you know of  any books or have suggestions, tips or tricks - please share.         

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AutismWonderland - written by Lisa Quinones-Fontanez - is a personal blog chronicling a NYC family's journey with autism, while also sharing local resources for children/families with special needs.