If you have a child on the spectrum these words might elicit strong emotions within you ~ No words can completely grasp the sinking sensation within your being when you cannot locate your non-verbal child!
I hear autism parents chuckle all the time that they are the only ones who lock doors to keep their children inside, instead of intruders out. It is true. If Sahara gets away from me (inside and out) she will not respond to the question, “Sahara, where are you?” We have resorted to chains on doors to give us some peace of mind… that is until she learned how to use the broom to unlatch the locks. She is not only intelligent, but cleaver!!
She has left the house at night once and it was horrifying!! But, it is just as alarming during day light. One time we found her in naked in a tree house near a neighbor’s pool. Your stomach falls and panic fills every cell within you. You aren’t sure if you should run in to get the phone to call 911 or if you should start running through the neighborhood. (I have done both!) When your autistic child is non-verbal and out of your sight it is an indescribable experience!
There are horror stories in the news almost daily: Autistic Adult Missing, Austistic Child Found Alive in Swamp, Autistic Resident Found Dead In Van… these are the headlines that keep me up at night (and I mean that very literally)!! This is a constant fear in the recess of my mind and of the mind of many parents with children on the autism spectrum!!
In fact, just before I sat down to write this blog today, I read a news article from Wichita, Kansas where a 5 year old autistic boy was found in a neighbor’s pond, just 30 minutes after his adult sister noticed he was missing. He was in critical condition, but later died. Tragic!! I pray for this family as they go through the unthinkable!
And I pray for all other families that are on the spectrum facing this manifestation of autism!
This is the kind of story I shared with my daughter’s school during our last IEP meeting. I was attempting to make a case for a one on one paraprofessional for safety purposes (in addition to the academic needs). The school is situated near a busy road and there is a pond on the property. The teacher said, “Well, I know you have problems with that at home, but at school she has never tried to run.” Aside the obvious contempt and judgment within her statement, the fact is it only takes once for a tragedy to occur!!
I decided that if the school wasn’t going to cooperate with us, then we would take matters of safety into our own hands. I started researching GPS locators… they weren’t cheap! (Remember, hubby was downsized and we had had no income for 7 months!) So, I called my daughter’s Developmental Disability Case Manager and inquired about funding… she said the family respite services would fund it!! The Caveat…. we would have to forfeit her music therapy allocations for the whole quarter!!
Well, that wasn’t a viable option.
At about the same I happened to see a contest posted on facebook via the Autism Women’s Network. They were giving away a GPS locator and one year’s worth of service to an autism family. What could it hurt to try to win this, right? So, I emailed them at Autism Women’s Network. I sprint to the living room and find the phone on my daughter’s desk… and answer.
I WON THE GPS LOCATOR FOR SAHARA!!
I am not even sure what I said to Tricia this morning. I was stunned. This is a VERY VERY EMPOWERING FOR ME, SAHARA, HER SISTER AND FATHER… THE WHOLE FAMILY!!
… and the list goes on.
I think about how much we don’t do in the community, because of fear of losing her in public! The stress we have between my husband and myself because we are under the constant stress of who is ‘watching’ Sahara. The sleepless nights because of the fear that she will walk out of the house. The obvious unjust responsibility that her sister burdens. The gut wrenching agony I have when I worry about someone nabbing her…. or worse!!