When Dovi was about 2 1/2 years old I realized we had a big problem on our hands.
It simply wasn't safe to go out with him without a stroller.
He was apt to bolt at any second. I could hold his hand as tightly as possible; he always managed to wrench himself out of my grip and just run. He had no safety awareness whatsoever and easily ran into the busy road.
During the week it wasn't such a problem, as he was always in a stroller. On Shabbos, in the winter it wasn't such a problem either, as it was too cold to go out. But as winter turned into spring, and I started taking him to the park on Shabbos mornings and on long walks in the afternoon to visit my parents and such, I began feeling very scared and unsafe to go out with him.
I had seen, in the past, some children wearing a harness or leash outdoors. I didn't ascribe to the belief that it looked like an animal on a leash or whatever. But I did want it to look the least strange. So I went to Amazon and searched. And found the perfect thing!
It looks like a backpack - and it is. The leash is detachable. It's durable. It has elastic in the leash so that there's some 'give'. Dovi likes it; i usually put a bottle or diapers or other things in it that he needs to take with him when we go outdoors, and the added weight helps ground him and calm his sensory needs. This harness has become so indispensable to us; his Res Hab counselors don't take him without it. His therapists use it to go on outdoor walks. It gives me a sense of safety and security and I can allow Dovi to walk about unencumbered without needing to hold onto his hand tightly. When he's in the McLaren stroller we put on the backpack and hook the end of the leash onto the stroller handles so that when he jumps up and climbs out of the stroller like Houdini the Expert, he's still attached to the stroller and hasn't taken off into oblivion.
I checked out a few similar harnesses but none of them work as well as this one. It's well worth the money.
(Oddly enough, Dovi LOVES animals; he chases after puppies on the street, and I often wind up looking like a frazzled animal owner chasing after her leashed dog who is lunging towards another dog! LOL!)
Later that year, when we went to the country for three weeks - which I will talk about in the next post IYH - I took along a child locator that I had purchased a few years prior when Chaim was 2 years old and tended to disappear in the bungalow colony. But the battery had died and it was worthless. I had many moments of neshama-in-my-throat panic, as Dovi treated the bungalow colony as his own personal playground and kept disappearing. I knew where his favorite haunts were and was always able to find him, but not without nearly losing my marbles in the process. When we came back home and he began to frequent the backyard, I sometimes lost sight of him even though I was right there- he is so quick, I could turn my back for a second to talk to a neighbor and he was already climbing the stairs to someone's porch. I did some more research on Amazon and was amazed to come up with this nifty gizmo:
It's exactly how it looks; the cute bear is attached to the child's shoe or belt with velcro, and the locator is a button that's pressed and a loud, earsplitting alarm will sound. It ended up not being very useful to us, because Dovi tended to rip off the bear, or I would forget to put it on him when I needed it most. The backyard kids got a kick out of asking me to press the locator button so the alarm would sound, which was bewildering to Dovi. I stopped using it after a short time; as Dovi gets older his hyperactivity and daring get worse and he needs to have someone right near him at all times. But whenever anyone asks me for a child locator, I direct them to this really wonderful gadget.
I hope these two items will help anyone who comes across this entry by searching for solutions to special needs children who tend to run away. Believe me - these items are useful even for neurotypical toddlers, especially in the Catskills when the entire bungalow colony is their personal playground.