While traveling this summer with my son, we were driving in
a small Pennsylvania town and discovered what I thought was a unique and
fascinating neighborhood sign.
It was a yellow (caution) sign that read: “Autistic Child Area.” (It was similar to a “Blind Child Area” sign.)
I stopped immediately and backed up to get another look at
the sign. My ever-observant son noticed me backing up the car and
questioned what I was doing.
Not only did I feel I had discovered a treasure, but the
subsequent conversation with my son turned out to be a highlight of my vacation
(and will be forever remembered).
After I positioned my car in front of the sign, I took out
my phone and took a photo of the sign. My son asked, “Mommy, what are you
“I’m taking a photo of this sign so I can send it to friends
“Because I think it’s a great sign,” I said. I meant it.
I was very impressed with this neighborhood in a small
Pennsylvania town and especially with a person’s diligence and caring to want drivers
to know that a child in the area may be having some sort of difficulty and
drivers should be extra cautious. They wanted a warning sign for drivers to
look carefully for a possible autistic child in this area.
Did I know why the
sign was put up?
Of course, I did not know the exact reason why the sign up
My best guess is that an autistic child lives on the street
and that child may have issues taking off or may be a wanderer. The parents of
that child must have petitioned for the sign and eventually got it put up. I’m
guessing that they proactively wanted their neighbors or cars passing by to be
aware that an autistic child may have issues outside of the home.
Not a bad reason at all.
Back to the conversation I had with my son:
Right after I snapped my photo, my son asked me, “Is that
sign about kids like me?”
I immediately loved the question because my husband and I
have been discussing our son’s knowledge about his own autism and whether or
not we should be openly discussing it with him.
We think he knows he has autism because we’re not shy when
it comes to talking about it around him. He goes to Autism Speaks meetings with
me and he attends his own IEPs.
However, he has yet to come to us and say, “Do I have
Our conversation continued:
I said, “Yes, it is probably a sign that tells drivers that
a child with autism lives on this street.”
“Why do they have a sign?”
“Well, maybe the child is a wanderer,” I said. “Or, he or
she darts out of the house. I think someone got the sign put up to help with
their child’s safety.”
“Okay, Mommy,” he said.
I thought that was a pretty darn good conversation for a kid
who had yet to acknowledge his own autism. It made me feel like he knew, he
just wasn’t sure how to converse about it yet.
Have I ever considered
petitioning for such a sign?
My son is older now and has never been much of a wanderer.
Plus, our house sits back from the street so my answer to that question is no.
Honestly, I had never even considered such a sign because I
didn’t realize you could get one. What pleased me most was that someone was
that proactive in a small town. Apparently, there is some sort of safely
concern regarding an autistic child and, to me, that means that someone is
looking out for their kid.
Would I recommend it?
Not a bad idea if you feel you need help keeping your child
safe. I think you’d have to consider the make-up of your neighborhood and your
relationship with your neighbors first.
You’d probably also need to factor in if your neighborhood
is a main street or out of the way. If your house is so off the “beaten path”
perhaps you don’t need to have such a sign.
The bottom line to this experience is that discovering this sign
led to a great conversation with my son. One I will cherish. And, I felt great
for those people who got the sign put up.
Autism these days is about awareness.
And that was a great way to promote awareness.
To Find Kimberly Kaplan:
Go to Amazon.com to purchase “Two Years of Autism Blogs
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www.smashwords.com or Amazon Kindle ebook “A Parents’ Guide
to Early Autism