...Yeah I'm the type of guy that likes to roam around
I'm never in one place I roam from town to town...
-from The Wanderer, Dion, 1961
We used to have elopement issues with Buddy Boy. Anytime there was a chance to run, he took it. He'd escape from the house and run thru the neighborhood, which we ended up solving by using keyed dead bolts (which were against code, but hey, we weren't selling the house, and they served a greater good). He also used to escape from us in public whenever he had the chance. Whether we were at a park, museum, aquarium, Disney World, wherever. If he could get his hand out of one of ours for 2 seconds, he was gone.
Fortunately, over the last year this behavior has pretty much extinguished itself. Once in a while he'll leave us, but it's pretty much now because there's something really interesting that he wants to see, not running for the sheer joy of running and playing "chase me".
Unfortunately, over the last couple of months a new issue has come up. Buddy Boy used to sleep thru the night (but never past 6:00 am, no matter what time he was put to bed). Lately he's been getting up in the middle of the night, wandering thru the house, and then going back to sleep in another room. Usually this means the living room or family room. Sometimes he has come into our bedroom, but then we immediately take him back to his own bedroom, so he has stopped coming there. We asked him why he does this, and he said that he just couldn't sleep. He also said that the plastic mattress cover made too much noise. We got him a new padded mattress cover that seemed to help, but in a week he was back to wandering again.
As with many things, we used a two pronged positive + negative reinforcer strategy. We gave him gum (which he loves) if he woke up in his own bed, and took away things he liked (stuffed toys, building materials) if he didn't. While we've had some success with this, it doesn't seem to be decreasing the behavior any further (we're at about twice/week at this point).
We hadn't adjusted any of his meds in the recent past, so we didn't think it was a medication effect (unless he had "grown out" of his current dose and needed to increase it). So we tried giving him Melatonin at night, which helped get him to sleep, but then he would still get up later. We tried upping his Guanfacine dose, which only left him sleepy during the day. So we've taken to giving him a "top off" dose of Melatonin when we get him up at 10:00 pm or so to go to the bathroom, but even that has had limited success.
I don't really care about the wandering, per se, but about safety issues if he gets into something. Lately he's also taken to trying to disassemble things (like the clothes dryer) and engaging in one of his favorite activities, water play (which flooded the bathroom one early morning).
On the one hand I'm caught in the present, and looking for concrete ways to keep him safe at night (short of having him move into our bedroom, or one of us moving into his). On the other hand, I wonder and worry about what it means in a greater sense for his life. Is Buddy Boy destined to wander his whole life? Or will there be someone there to guide him if needed once we're gone, and supports in place to keep him safe and as independent as possible?
Only time will tell. Until then he'll wander, and we'll try to keep up, keep him safe, and teach him to keep himself safe.
Joe is 209 :)