Strategies for… by forrests


									Strategies for…
Children with Down syndrome who Wander

Resources: Door and Window Alarms    Bunnings Hardware $15-$30 (also have ID Bracelets)

ID Bracelets AAC Wristbands - 1300 797 478 Wander Alarms  Safely Home Distance Alarm Alarm sounds if child moves beyond set distance. 0-25 metres. $24.95 At checkout you can nominate a charity to receive 10% of the sale – DSAQ is on their list.  Vigil-Aide Person Location Monitoring Alarm Alarm sounds if child moves beyond 40 metres. Can be purchased or rented AAF Adjust-A-Fit Caboolture 5428 0633 $336-$780  Medi-Track System Titley Electronics produce a pendant with a locating unit. House alarms also available. Cost approx $1,200.00 PO Box 19 Ballina NSW 2478 02 6686 6617  Angel Alert Monitor A child distance monitor (pendant) alarm goes off if child moves a set distance away (suitable for short distances) Search baby gear for AA child distance monitor Model # 82562  Kidsafe Tracking system where an alarm sounds if child moves more than a set distance from a central device or falls into water.

All children have a natural urge to be outside, explore their environment, and satisfy their curiosity. This usually occurs in the toddler stage, but for children with Down syndrome it may continue on into the primary years. There are many reasons for this (see below) and some children become experts at finding ways to escape. As with any behaviour, it is easy for absconding to become a habit. Early teaching about rules and safety, without squelching their desire to explore, is important. For children with Down syndrome consistency and repetition is key. Below are some easy to follow steps which may help with modifying your little one’s behaviour.

Step 1
When children wander off or sometimes run away at high speed, the primary concern is safety. If you’re having trouble stopping them, at least slow them down, make it hard work for them to get out. Various ideas and products are available to help make the environment safer. Consider the following:           Invest in keyed window and door locks and keep the keys with you Erect high fences and keep them key locked Install door alarms TIP – Portable door Obtain wander alerts alarms can be Purchase an ID bracelet and/or ID card taken on holidays Introduce yourself and your child to your neighbours Inform your local police of potential problems Keep an updated photo of your child When going out, dress in an easily seen outfit Teach your child their name and address See list of Resources on opposite page

Step 2
Having a child disappear is one of the most frightening things that can happen to a parent. The process of constant surveillance and fear of your child absconding can be very stressful and emotionally draining. When deciding to implement a new strategy, parents need to be rested, calm and clear about their goals. Consider the following:  Prior to implementing the strategies, arrange some time-out, utilise respite centres or extended family. Above all make sure that you know your child is in an escape proof environment so that you won’t spend your time worrying. (This is especially important if you have been dealing with this issue for a long period of time).  Re-frame the way you approach this issue, instead of constant worry – see it as an opportunity for you to participate in protecting and teaching your child.  Expect a positive outcome. Most children will grow out of absconding eventually, but with repetition and consistency, children can be taught the boundaries and learn to adhere to them relatively quickly.  Set your goal, write down exactly what you want, what you expect your child to do and in what circumstances.

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Example Goals Joe understands the rules and complies with them Joe will not leave our yard without informing me When we are out, Joe knows to stay with me Joe will stop when I ask him to Joe will stay in the school grounds Joe stays safe

Step 3
When planning a strategy, it is useful to think about why the behaviour is occurring and if there are specific triggers.  Monitor and record incidences of attempted absconding, so that you can see if there is a pattern to the behaviour.  Try to think like your child, write down the reasons why you think your child may be wanting to abscond so that you can address your plan at a more specific target.

Possible Reasons for Wandering              Wanting to be outside Going somewhere specific Natural Exploration Curiosity Following thoughts in the head, not telling any-one their intention No fear of separation Avoidance of something specific within the house/school Easily distracted by sights and sounds No understanding of the rules Forgetting the rules Attention / Enjoying the chase Accidental reinforcement A combination of the above

Step 4
Make a plan. When you have established a possible reason for the wandering, write down the appropriate strategies you will use and make sure you refer to them often, so that you know you’re staying on track. Make sure everything you do is engaging and fun with clear and concise instructions delivered in a calm, non-emotional tone. If you have other children in the house include them in the training. Consider the reasons you have come up with when choosing from the strategies listed below:


Teach your child to stop when you say so.
TIP – Teaching Kids to STOP – A great way to engage children is to make learning to stop, fun and exciting. Play the Turtle Game. Mummy/Daddy is the big turtle. The little turtles all run and when the big turtle says “STOP” the little turtles freeze and then run back to the big turtle for a hug. Let them have a turn at being the big turtle.


Establish rules – they must be short and simple. Have them written down. Use visual cues if possible. Use positive language – tell you child what you want them to do, not what you don’t want them to do. Eg: Joe stays inside the fence, Joe stays with mum when we are out. Joe holds onto the shopping trolley
The way in which instructions are given can influence whether or not children do as they are told. Some common problems include:  Too many  Too few expected  Too hard  Poorly timed  Too vague


Establish boundaries – walk the boundaries with your child often (this will usually be the inside of your fence). Put STOP signs on all exits. Model what you want them to do. If you have other children encourage them to also model the appropriate behaviour.

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Role play – let your child know what you expect them to do. Play out a scenario, pretend to be your child. Eg: Run to the door, see the sign, and say “Oh that’s right, I have to stay inside the fence”. Make up social stories – tell stories about people/animals who know how to stay in their boundary. Use things that will engage your child. If they like cars, tell a story about a car.
TIP: Finger puppets and favourite toys are a great way of role playing and telling social stories.


 Make a booklet telling a story about what is expected, with photos of your child and the boundaries. Eg Here is Joe, This is Joe’s house. Here is the fence, Joe stays inside the fence.



 Use Cue Cards - make a card for each possible scenario. This is more effective with visual cues, such as pictures. They can be put on doors and walls eg:

Want to go Outside?

Ask Mum

 Create opportunities for praising compliance. Go into the yard with your child and if they don’t attempt to leave the yard, immediately and effusively praise them for staying inside and following the rules. Use positive language.  Provide a reward for adherence to expected behaviour. Use a sticker chart, when they have 5 stickers, they get their reward. Provide motivation – give them a reason to comply, think about what motivates your child. What would make them want to comply?

 Ensure your child has lots of interesting and engaging things to do in the home.  Provide safe opportunities for outside play  Provide opportunities for exploring new places. (But they must stay with you as part of the rules)  Increase the level of exercise your child takes part in, get them running, jumping and swimming (in short, tucker them out)

Once you have made your plan, make sure that every-one in the family is aware of all of the steps that are being implemented and that every-one follows the plan. Also make sure that you share you plan with your school and other services where your child might stay. Responses to not following the rules must be immediate, attended to in a calm, non-judging manner decisive and consistent. Gain your child’s attention – get down to eye level and use your child’s name and in a firm voice remind your child of the rules. Do not give any further attention. If a child gets a lot of attention when they run away, it can accidentally re-inforce the behaviour. This also includes negative attention such as yelling. Remember to praise your child when they do stay within the set boundaries. Children must be developmentally ready to learn new skills and it can take some practice. Keeping safety measures in place while they learn about appropriate safety behaviour will help keep the stress levels down. Do not be too hard on yourself. You are learning too. Take care of yourself, it’s easier to meet your child’s needs if you also look after your own.

Tips for School When you enroll your child in school, investigate the grounds, look for areas of potential problems – is the school fenced, are there areas without doors. Scout around the local surrounds – are there creeks or drains, is the school close to a shopping centre or other enticing place that might draw a child away from school (video shops often seem to be a popular place to abscond to). Add these facts into your planning process. Work collaboratively with the school - Share the strategies you are using at home, so the school can emulate them – eg walk the boundary, have STOP signs and visual cues. Ask the Principal about their safety/emergency procedure in the event of a child absconding. Some other suggestions:  Create a buddy system  Introduce child at parade, so all staff and children so they are aware of him/her and can keep an eye out  Make sure the other children know to report a child missing  Have a bright hat/ribbon for easy spotting  Have an emergency procedure – eg certain teachers allocated to search in specific areas

Produced by DSAQ 2007
Acknowledgements: This article has been put together with information from:  Understanding Down syndrome A Guide for Parents and Caregivers Down Syndrome Society of South Australia Inc 1999  Which Way Did She Go? Disability Solutions Newsletter Vol 4 Issue 3  Positive Parenting Triple P  Information from Queensland Parents

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