Marco Polo, Wandering and TAGteach

Camels in Petra

Legend tells us that Marco Polo wandered across the deserts of Asia to reach the fabled cities of China. Our children with autism can be wanderers too, a source of worry to parents and caregivers. To compound the problem of wandering, many times our kids’ verbal abilities are limited so they cannot respond to shouts or hails. After one frightening episode, I used TAGteach to teach my son a verbal response so that he would be able to answer us if we were looking for him.

Years ago, my son disappeared from sight one afternoon when we were momentarily distracted. Instantly we and several neighbors fanned out looking for him. Nobody could find him. I finally went inside the house and thought to look around carefully. Luckily, I found him out of sight, but curled up in a big chair. Even though I had called out to him, he had not answered. We realized he had to be able to answer us verbally if we were looking for him.

Where is Douglas?

Initially, I sat down with him and taught him to respond to the question, “Where is Douglas?” by waving his arm and shouting “Here.” That worked fairly well, but a question like “Where is Douglas?” or “Where is Tommy?” may be an emotionally laden question for the child. Is he in trouble? Oh no, maybe he should stay quiet! My husband came up with the great idea of teaching him to respond to “Marco” with “Polo.” Everyone knows this phrase; it’s a common game that kids play in the pool during the summer.

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