Earlier today I shared a note (written by an ASD dad) on Facebook about how parents of autistic children with exploring wandering tendencies are often viewed as neglectful caretakers.  His point was that while some of us are, many more of us are just human.  We try SO hard to keep an eye on our inquisitive children, but things happen.  Like when nature calls, or one of our other children needs us, or we need to do the laundry, cook dinner, answer the phone… out of eyesight for a split second and gone.  Fear and panic set in.  Prayers go up that the child hasn’t found a pond or a road or a stranger…

Yesterday, I lived that fear.  Even though our house is “Christian escape-proofed” (keyed locks on all doors that lead to the outside, certain windows lead only to the fenced in yard, 6-foot tall fence, etc.) he managed to find the one gate in the yard that didn’t managed to get locked after some afternoon chores.  I was preparing supper and talking to Olivia.  I assumed that our fence gates were all locked up (like they usually are) and let Christian out to swing in the yard. 

I will never assume again.

All of the sudden, I realized that our yard was too quiet.  (When Christian is happily playing in our yard, he almost constantly makes his “happy hum,” which I’ve come to love for then I know where he is.)  I stepped out to look and he was no longer there.  I listened and heard no “Christian noise.”  Panic.

My phone rang.  

I looked down and saw the neighbor’s number and wondered what in the world she wanted since I had just sent her daughter home and I was in “crazy mom” mode wracking my brain thinking of where Christian could have run off to.

“Christian’s at our house.  He just walked right in.  I didn’t even know that that door was unlocked.”

I stammered that I would be right over.  Sending up a prayer of thanks that Christian had only gone that far.  That the neighbor’s door was open.  That she called me.  That she kept Christian safe.  Just so thankful for so many, many things.

I ask you now, if you have a family in your neighborhood with a child on the autism spectrum, keep an eye out for that child.  Be willing to help (as many of us parents are too proud to ask for it) by keeping that child safe if he or she is found wandering without a caregiver.  Call the parents and/or gently try to walk that child home.  I know that it would (and did) mean the world to me.

Christian on a supervised exploration trip.