As of right now, Cody doesn’t stay at home by himself. But that day will come and we have to make sure he is prepared.
Part of what Cody’s Occupational Tech, Stephen, does when he comes here will help. Making sure Cody knows a routine is imperative to his success and safety when he is home alone.
Simple things like knowing how to get his morning coffee. We have a brew station that automatically comes on and shuts off. All he needs to do is know how much creamer to put in first. So we put a small measuring cup with a clear black fill line drawn on it so it will be easy for him to know when enough is enough. Then he can simply put his mug up to the spout and press the dispenser lever, and voila! He has coffee.
We have simply-made, breakfast foods that can be microwaved in a pinch. Our microwave has express buttons to push for anything that can be heated in one to five minutes. Having lots of instructions—with tasks broken down into small increments—posted around that house will be key in helping Cody be more self-sufficient when the need arises. For example:
- Take pancakes and sausage out of package.
- Put pancakes and sausage on small plate.
- Put plate in microwave.
- Push the button with the “1” on it.
- When microwave beeps and shuts off then take the pancakes and sausage out and eat them.
Cody has a morning routine down pretty well. He gets up and has his coffee; then it’s time for breakfast. When breakfast is done, he brushes his teeth and gets dressed. But it will be important for him to have a routine for the rest of the day as well. Making posters with reminders of what to do next is a good way to ensure he’s not just wandering around the house with nothing to do. Having nothing to do leads to boredom and boredom can lead to trouble. Cody can get frustrated in a very short time, which can lead to a heartbreaking meltdown.
Planning ahead will be crucial. Making sure there are small cartons of milk and juice available will make life easier, too. And what about a simple, inexpensive cell phone? That way, Bill and I can call to check on him and not have to worry about him answering the home phone and giving away information to people who would take advantage of him.
That leads to the question of emergencies. Stephen has been working with Cody on making sure he knows his address and telephone number to give to 911 if a dangerous situation arose. We also need to make sure he knows to exit the house quickly in case of a fire and to call 911 to let them know, then to call one of us so we can make a bee-line for the house and call nearby relatives to get there and make sure Cody stays out of harm’s way.
Buying a cell phone ahead of time and having him practice using it is going to be on our list of things to do soon. Cody has a birthday coming up. Perhaps this would be a great gift for him. He actually loves it when he gets calls. Missouri recently activated the no-call list for cell phones. Cody’s number will be added to that right away.
If he has a cell phone, then something as simple as making sure he has shorts and jeans with front pockets or even t-shirts with pockets will be important. This way his cell phone can be on his person at all times.
There are a million things one has to think of when planning for an individual on the autism spectrum to be able to be self-sufficient while parents and guardians are at work. There will come a day when day-hab services may not be available anymore. And for us the list of people we can trust to stay with him for those hours is dwindling. So there will be lots of preparations for operation HOME ALONE in the months ahead.