Do We Keep Him Safe?
Theodore G. Coutilish and Mary Beth Langan, September 10,
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Many things may
run through a parent’s mind after he or she reads about certain
In the past month, you may have heard of three people with
autism who died after wandering from their homes. One died as
the result of being hit by an automobile; two drowned within a
short distance of home.
How do we keep Andrew, our 3 1/2-year-old son, safe? How does
anyone keep his or her child safe?
To learn more, Mary Beth began by visiting
On Us, or The Law Enforcement Awareness Network, was founded by
two police officers, who also happen to have a son with autism.
The organization’s mission is to create a network for first
responders, advocates, individuals with hidden disabilities and
families of loved ones affected to come together to provide
resources and information.
L.E.A.N. On Us wants to help alleviate the occurrence of
unfortunate situations such as those mentioned above. The
organization feels by providing first responders with some
additional tools, they will be able to provide more appropriate
responses to individuals and also stay safe themselves.
One important thing a parent can do is to complete a Child
Safety ID card for each of their children. If a child wanders
off or is missing for any reason, it is very hard to remember or
find all of the information that is needed while you are under
such stress. L.E.A.N. On Us recommends updating a card each year
and keeping the card in a spot where it will be easily found
should it be necessary.
Mary Beth visited
www.leanonus.org to easily download and print a safety ID
Within 45 minutes of calling Lt. Ron Wieczorek of the City of
Grosse Pointe Police Department, Andrew was being fingerprinted
for his safety ID card. All of the Grosse Pointe officers they
saw were friendly.
We hope Andrew will continue to learn officers are not people of
whom to be afraid. If he’s afraid of them, he may run away from
them at a time when he actually needs them and should be running
There are even more reasons to teach this lesson to a child with
* It is five to 10 times more likely for a person with a
disability to have contact with the police.
* Individuals with a disability are four to 10 times more likely
to be victims of crime.
* Individuals with a disability are 50 to 99 percent more likely
to be victimized by someone they know, such as a relative,
teacher or bus driver (“Protecting Loved Ones With Autism,” C.
Gammicchia, ASA Advocate, 2003, 2nd edition).
While at the police station for the fingerprinting, Mary Beth
and Andrew dropped off a flier that invites folks, including
first responders, to a Dennis Debbaudt presentation on September
27. Debbaudt is an internationally recognized authority on
Autism Spectrum Disorders and safety issues. His presentation
that morning will be “Autism Spectrum Disorders – Preventing
Unfortunate Situations and Recognizing the Needs of Individuals
with ASD in Our Communities.”
By the end of the day, Mary Beth had Andrew’s safety ID card
completed, including his little fingerprints, and the knowledge
that the City of Grosse Pointe Police Department was sending
someone to participate in the training with Debbaudt. She slept
a bit more sound that night knowing she had done a little to
help keep Andrew safe.
Visit www.leanonus.org to
download the flier on the Debbaudt training. Do it for yourself,
your police department or others who might need to know some
ways to keep your children safe. And while you are at the site,
download the safety ID card if you do not have one already.
It may help you get a good night’s rest, too.
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