Having your child wander off is a nightmare. It’s every parent’s worst fear to suddenly realize their child is missing, whether it’s in their own backyard or from their after school program.
This happened to one mom, Natasha Barber, whose son has autism — and because of that, she decided to do something about it. And luckily, her solution is free for everyone.
Barber’s experiences raising her son, Joshua, made her realize how few resources there are for parents with kids who have autism. Safety can be a concern. One time, when he was 5, Joshua wandered to a nearby lake — and he couldn’t swim. Fortunately, according to The Mighty, Barber saw Joshua in time. Afterward, she installed error proof locks.
But in 2015, Joshua left his after-care program and ran out onto a 50 mph road; Barber explained how this sparked her idea for a kit — and she later founded Autism Moms Know Safety as a way to provide free safety tips and resources to parents and caregivers of autistic kids. She said:
The day I met a mom who lost her son to wandering, was the day that sparked the creation of the safety kits. I felt the need to reach out to parents and provide a free physical resource so that this awful experience didn’t repeat itself for another mom.
With illustrator Rayah Jaymes, Barber later created the AMKS Safety and Resource Kits in 2017, which is a free resource where safety product companies contributed to kits, like If I Need Help, RoadID, and Angel Sense.
So, what to the kits include? Safety resources, coupons for products, bumper stickers, interactive matching boards, bracelets, stop signs and safety clips. As of now, the kits can be sent outside of the U.S. (where the company is based) to Canada, Philippines, Ireland, U.K. and Australia.
Barber recommends that you “keep your safety protective aids in place past the traditional preschool years. This means gates, door locks and alarms, furniture straps, etc all need to remain within your home to keep your child safe.”
Barber also explains that parents need to have support systems; no one can do it on their own:
Between tantrums, meltdowns, self injurious behaviors, therapy and doctor appointments, IEPs, running a household of other kids, working full time and then trying to work through the stress of how to protect your child from wandering; it’s a lot. The safety kits are my way to help parents tackle just one of the million other things they have to figure out.
Any parent or caregiver can apply for a free kit at Autism Moms Knows Safety.