Since our son has become more assertive and mobile (having reached the ripe old age of 5), my wife and I have found that many of the traditional tools we have used to help keep our son safe are no longer working. For instance, the latch on the fence in the back is easily reached and used now, so he is no longer able to play in the back yard on his own. He has figured out the lock on the refrigerator door, which he has demonstrated quite regularly yesterday. And he has no problems using the sliding glass door, door handles, locks, dead bolts, etc. Needless to say, our son has figured out that he can easily get outside whenever he wants, in various states of dress and in varying weather conditions.
These are things you are never told when your child is diagnosed autistic: that you need to alter your home lifestyle in order to best protect your child. Now most parents would need to do this anyway, and promptly baby-proof their homes. We did, months before our first son was born, and continued with our second son. But now our son is old enough to circumvent many of the baby proofing techniques (like locking cabinet doors, door handle covers, and power outlet covers), and has begun to explore areas that he has previously been unable to reach. Some have been a challenge, some a frustration, some I'm actually proud of his achievements (he accomplished it faster than I expected), but some is very scary.
But the most terrifying is when he runs outside, and we do not know that he has gone. For this reason, we have decided we need a new home. "What? A new home", you ask? Yes, a new home. It may seem like a very expensive proposition, but let me explain our problem with our current house with regards to our son.
The first problem: The back door and sliding glass door are both blocked from view from the front room. This means if we are sitting in the front room we cannot see when our son leaves through the back door or sliding glass door. As neither is particularly loud, we cannot hear him either. That, and sliding glass doors are difficult to set up special alarms that go off with a separate tone based on the door. The blocked view is caused by the division between the two rooms by what was once the pantry and the stairs.
So, we picked a house plan that we liked, paid the deposit for the land, and we are now in the process of getting approval for the new house. There are lots of other fun things that can come with building your own house from the ground up, but the deciding factor of this move was the needs of our son, and the sanity of his parents. Too many times he has run across the street to visit the neighbors yard, completely without our knowledge. It's scary, because he doesn't look for cars coming and just runs.
Along with the new house we will be able to get fencing and enclose the yard to contain our son to that level (and eventually his dog). We get to design and landscape the yard from scratch to add trees that will not only provide shade, but perhaps some fruit as well.