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Last Updated: 02/23/2018

Article of Interest - Parenting

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Bridges4Kids LogoHow Do We Keep Him Safe?
Theodore G. Coutilish and Mary Beth Langan, September 10, 2004
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Many things may run through a parent’s mind after he or she reads about certain tragedies.

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 L.E.A.N. 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 to easily download and print a safety ID card.

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 toward them.

There are even more reasons to teach this lesson to a child with special needs:

* 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 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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