Autistic Wandering: a new ICD-9 code as of 10/1/11: Think about it from different perspectives!

1 Aug

I look at this code from a few different perspectives.  Let me share with you, if you have the time to take a look at this post. 

As a child; if I am recalling this correctly, my cousin who is six months younger than I had wandered out from his home in New Jersey.  People were looking for him.  Yes, he was finally found; but, this now autistic adult could not relate to you his name.  At least, that was at the point that I last saw him which was some time ago.  I do not think that he had the acuity of expressing general knowledge that included his address or phone number.  I doubt that he could have been able to relate to another person that he was indeed lost.  We are out of touch now, but the disorder is not. 

My colleagues have written questions about what the practical implications of imposing a label such as this on autistic persons will have.  I respond with a question:  How would an autistic person who wanders off, a person who could not even communicate that he was lost, could not give them his or her name to another people feel.  He or she would  most likely be scared.  When a person who is autistic becomes that way he or she generally has difficulty managing their own behavior.  I remember seeing that.  In layman’s terms, you may call it being confused and visualize it in the form of a tantrum. So, what does alerting others to the tendency for a person to wander off do. Think about this from a practical standpoint, the viewpoint of the person who is experiencing this.   I think this is an incredibly helpful move on the part of the mental health community and a way of keeping people who are autistic safe. As well, defining this for people who suffer from dementia has the same meaning to me.  I applaud their efforts. 

As an add-on thought to this “issue of the week”, so to speak, I wonder how others literally on the street would hear about this disorder were they to find someone “wandering”.  Rather than thinking of them as potentially drunk or as having consumed illegal drugs i think it would also be helpful if these people were automatically given a bracelet that identifies them out in public as having this condition. One could consider this as a safety precaution.  Some people wear medic alert jewelry or watches to identify themselves and their medical condition, in the event of an emergency.  It would be helpful for all of us.  It is just a thought and if you are a healthcare provider, a parent or caregiver in my opinion it would becould to consider using this type of “identification system”, for lack of a better word..   

I keep reading about this announcement within various social networking venues.  As I wrote in my post of last week, describing the symptoms of a problem very specifically; defining the label will only help others to understand the condition and perhaps drop some prejudice towards these people. This is my opinion and one that I recall was actually discussed years ago during graduate school, as a part of a diagnostics class in which we were writing evaluations.  I learned to describe exactly what I saw instead of putting a label on it.  Interestingly, it seems that history is repeating itself.  Now it is coming out in public, outside of the classroom and into the “real world” where I think most of us learn how to do our jobs.  I wonder what parents  and caregivers think? If you are reading this i would be interested in hearing.  I think my colleagues too would be interested in hearing from you. Please reply.

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