Escape artist

Over at “love many trust few” this morning, I read a post called “Escapology.” In the post, she describes how her son with autism managed to escape from her fenced-in yard with what she believed to be a gate that he could not open.

She was wrong.

I nodded sympathetically as I read her story. Like her son, Philip does not respond to warning calls around traffic. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, he will not stop on command. Unlike my overreaction to what happen at the bank or my superstitions about a date on the calendar, wandering is a very real concern for parents of children with autism. The post that I referenced above linked to another blog in which escape prevention strategies were discussed.

So far, Peter and I have only implemented the first strategy-secure your home and yard. We have a fenced-in yard. We’ve installed security chains on the doors leading outside, into the attic and the basement.

Of course, if the chains aren’t in place . . .

This morning, I was on the phone with my dad. Philip was playing with a toy beside the front door. I glanced over and noticed extra daylight hitting the carpet.

The front door was open.

I hung up on my dad and rushed over. Fortunately, I got there before Philip dashed out into the yard.

I know that the chain was not hooked, but I’m not certain if the lock in the knob or if the dead bolt had been secured. It honestly would not matter. One of the reasons that we installed the chains was that we watched Philip unlock the dead bolt shortly after we moved in.

Coincidentally, I took a picture of Philip playing with this puzzle at the library yesterday.

What genius invented this toy? And why did I let my son play with it?!

I understand the point of the toy-it is great for developing fine motor skills. But I have one question to the inventor:

What the hell were you thinking?

I don’t know if it is obvious from the picture, but this puzzle has six doors. Each door is held shut by some kind of latch. The child must unlatch the door to lift it and reveal animals underneath.

Seriously, I want my child to practice becoming an escape artist?!

Like a dummy, I let Philip play with it. He hadn’t completely mastered the various latches, but he seemed to enjoy the challenge. I was also surprised that he wanted all of the doors open since he is a big fan of closing doors. When a little girl came over to play with the toy at the same time, she started to close the doors. I tensed up, not sure how Philip would react. He tried to open the one door that she had closed, but then decided he would continue what he was doing on the one half of the puzzle while the little girl played at the other.

How cool is that?

Much cooler than almost having Philip run out the front door.

Truth be told, the puzzle did not have any latches like the locks on our door. But I am surprised when reading the product reviews, that people criticize the poor design but have nothing to say about the concept. You can see a close-up of the toy and read the reviews yourself by clicking this link.

Today was a near-miss, but I worry about the future. I worry about when he has sufficient height and dexterity to unlock and open doors at will. I worry about the days when he has outgrown that toy. Will he still run off? Will he come back?

3 thoughts on “Escape artist

  1. I knew of a child who was a serious escape artist. His parents found an organization that trained dogs for autistic children. The dog was trained to stay with that child and if he wandered away he would alert the family. The dog wore a vest that had something written on it, don’t remember the details. I recalled the family felt very relieved with the dog always being by his side. He even took it to school…it helped him have interaction with other children.


    1. Actually, our dog helped bring the open door to my attention. He isn’t a specially trained service dog, but he is always interested in the front door opening. He usually barks as soon as he hears it rattling. I heard his “harumph” but just assumed Philip was invading his personal space. I’m so glad I glanced over when I did.


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