The Phrase I Taught My Son with Autism to Say after Tragedy Struck Our Town

In 2016, two stories captured my attention. First, from the town where I grew up in Oklahoma, 8-year-old Damion Alexander Davidson left his home around 2:00 am because he liked thunder storms. His body was found fourteen days later. Months later in my current town, 9-year-old Marcus McGhee went missing and his body was later found in a pond near the family's property. 

I watched the news accounts from both cities that I knew so well and wept. People from the communities had searched and searched, calling for the boys and hoping for an answer. 


Soon after, I couldn't find my son James anywhere in the house. "James, where are you?" I called. I repeated it until I realized my son, who can speak very few words, wouldn't know how to answer the question, "Where are you?" He can sometimes tell you his name is James, but he didn't know his mom's name or his dad's name or even his last name.

If he got away from us, if he eloped and our city rallied to help us find him, he could be two feet from a rescuer and not answer, "James, where are you?" 

So we made it our goal to teach him an answer. We used the ABA fading prompt method that worked so well for us teaching him other words and phrases. 

"James, where are you? Say 'Here I am.'" 

I shared the goal with his teachers and they worked on it at school too. It became similar to a hide and seek game, which he loved. We also worked on matching volume, so if we shouted the question, he would shout his response. 

We can't avoid tragedies that may strike, but mourning for the loss of Damion and Marcus gave me the push I needed to help my son be safer in a situation that's so common in our autism community. 

Have you taught your child with disabilities a skill to keep him or her safe? Share in the comments so we can learn from each other's experiences!