This topic is close to my heart. This article (in the link that I have shared) is talking about public schools not having protocol in place for elopement risks.
Autism is on the rise and as I'm always saying, "...churches are effected by autism just as much as business, doctors offices, and schools. Training is a must."
I have been on the parent end of elopement situation and let me tell you how thankful I am that nothing extreme happened, but it could have. The stories shared in this article are my greatest fears.
So let me tell you a story about a beautiful little girl. She was six years old. You would not have known that she was autistic by looking at her. What does autism look like anyway? Right?! A lesson for a different day and another blog.
If you had never talked to her, you wouldn't know that she was non-verbal. You would see that she was a happy, giggly blond headed girl, prancing around without a care in the world.
One Sunday morning, her mother came to pick her up from the Sunday morning class. The teachers were preoccupied; the mother was not the only mom picking up her kid from this class. The mom glanced around the room and did not see her blond headed little one anywhere.
The mom became immediately alarm and interrupted the teachers to find out where her daughter was. The two teachers glanced around the room, as they obviously had no idea where this mother's child had went.
Knowing how serious this situation was, the mother darted out of the room in search for her daughter. It was a challenge. Her heart was beating like a drum, all of the "what ifs" were racing through her mind as she pushed her way through the crowds of people just standing around talking.
As the mom made her way through the auditorium. She glanced up as an usher was opening the door for the little girl to go outside. Cars where backing out of parking spots, a busy road directly in front of the church would not stop her child. Her daughter had no perspective on safety and potentially dangerous situations.
Just beyond the road was a park that she had visited before with her daughter. They would go there during the services when her daughter would have a melt down, to calm her from the overload on her sensory system during the services. She would possibly head straight for the park.
By this time the mom was shouting, "Please! Stop my daughter!" No one but the mom was physically process the potential danger that was taking place. Fortunately, the mom was able to catch up to her daughter. She was worn out, fuming from the lack of response, and that no one was aware.
As the mom returned back to the class, she did her best not to over react, but making sure that her daughter's teachers knew exactly how big of a problem this was.
Even the smallest churches need to have some type of protocol in place. It could mean the difference in life or death. It- IS- that- SERIOUS! Had that usher and those teachers been properly trained and been aware, that mom would not have felt so violated. Yes, I did say violated and I meant it. The mom had told them about the possibilities of an elopement risk. Teachers shook their heads in understanding, but that was it. No protocol was put in place.
When you put your trust in a person to care for your child, that has special needs and they put your child in harms way because they are preoccupied... YEAH! You feel violated!!!
Please check out these great suggestions for putting protocols in place in your local assembly. In a moment of panic is not the time to decide what needs to happen. Most of time it takes something tragic to get everyone on board to put safety measures in place. As a mom, I'd rather my kids not be the tragedy, well, no kid for that matter.
Let's start the conversation. What does your church do to include safety measures? What do you think about the protocols mentioned in the article? Does your church need disability ministry training? I advocate for disability ministries, so that these types of conversations take place. So someone in the church is equip so tragedies like these are less likely.
Maybe your church currently does not have anyone with special needs- that you know of. What if an individual with special needs visits your church for the first time? Is your church ready for them? If not what will your response be? Sorry-- we don't accept individuals with special needs here in our church? I don't think this would be your response. I hope not. I also hope that your church is prepared with safety measures in place. If your answer is, "no", maybe this will help start the conversation.