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Nov 29, 2014

Code Adam

As an autism mom, I am so grateful for the Code Adam protocol that is used by many stores and businesses.  It was developed in 1981, after Adam Walsh, the son of John Walsh, was abducted from a local store.  Stores that are trained in Code Adam usually will have this decal:

Unfortunately, today I had the opportunity, firsthand, to see this in action, but, FORTUNATELY, the protocol was in place and actually worked.  I was at Wal-Mart with my 10-year-old son, when he suddenly made a dash for it.   He has a history of running away from me in stores.  He loves to run up and down the aisles, and many times, by the time I get to him, he's found some yummy treat to eat that I get to add to my shopping cart.  I have always been able to catch him pretty quickly, but yesterday was different.  We were in a Wal-Mart store on Black Friday:  Need I say more.  I was absolutely terrified, and asked the first employee I could find what I should do.  I informed him that my son was autistic, and he had run away from me and was alone in the store.
He promptly took me to the dressing rooms, which are located in the center of the store.   The dressing room attendant then paged a Code Adam over the store intercom.  She explained that there was a missing 10-year-old boy with autism, and gave a description, including age, hair color and what he was wearing.   She asked the workers to bring him to the dressing room where his mother was waiting.  After the page she a asked me to stay there, which I did, even though every part of me felt the need to continue looking.  
After a long 5 minutes, I was reunited with my son.  He was in the paper towel aisle.  I would have never looked there.  
So, on this Thanksgiving weekend, the thing I am most grateful for is that my son was found, safe and sound because this protocol exists, and the store employees knew exactly what they needed to do to reunite me with my son.

Here are the steps to a Code Adam, per the website for The Center for Missing and Exploited Children:

  1. Obtain a detailed description of the child, including what he or she is wearing.
  2. Page "Code Adam." Describe the child's physical features and clothing.
  3. Designated employees will immediately stop working, look for the child and monitor front entrances to ensure the child does not leave the premises.
  4. Call law enforcement if the child is not found within 10 minutes.
  5. If the child is found and appears to have been lost and unharmed, reunite the child with the searching family member.
  6. If the child is found accompanied by someone other than a parent or legal guardian, make reasonable efforts to delay their departure without putting the child, staff or visitors at risk. Immediately notify law enforcement and give details about the person accompanying the child.
  7. Cancel the Code Adam page after the child is found or law enforcement arrives.

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