Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Day That Stopped

It was seven years ago when our world stopped for what seemed to be an eternity.  Our 3 year old, non-verbal son got out of the house, ran down an alleyway, crossed 2 busy streets and was eventually found by 3 young men.  How did this happen?  We let our guard down for 30 seconds. 

We knew something was different about our son but we were in denial.  It wasn't until the summer of 2007 when we contacted the County and started receiving help.  His official autism diagnosis came in May of 2008 but back to the story.

It was a day to celebrate.  The family was getting together to observe my in-law's 40 years of marriage...40 years!  Unheard of nowadays.  We had my brother in law's family coming from out of state and couldn't wait to see them.  My son was always here and there so we were hyper vigilant with him.  We were always stopping to see where he was at all times throughout the day and night.  Our company came to the front door and everyone, but my son, came to greet them.  We all moved into the living room, gave out hugs and kisses and then called for my son.  He didn't answer, he usually didn't, but you could at least hear him banging toys or verbal stimming but we didn't. I checked the basement, hubby checked the upstairs.  Not around.  I checked the fenced in backyard, bathrooms.... nothing.  My heart sank.  With all the welcoming, we didn't close the front door.  We left the front door unlocked!

He hardly ever looked at the camera.
Everything froze.  Hubby started to panic and ran out the front door, heading towards the college.  My brother in law left the house but I didn't see which way he went.  I told my sister in law to stay inside with the kids and I walked out the front door.  *I can't explain it but in emergency situations, I get very calm.*  I did a quick scan and heard laughing next door.  Our neighbors were having an outdoor party so I knocked on their fence and got their attention.  Looking at my neighbor, all I could say was "he is gone".  With that, my neighbor quickly gathered all the adults and they started pouring out of their backyard to join in the search.  At that very moment, far down the alleyway, I saw 3 young teenagers and one was carrying my son.  My brother in law appeared out of no where and reached them first, taking him into his arms.  Starting to let my guard down, I immediately teared up and held my son.  A long hug and tears was all I could do.  My son didn't like to be hugged or held for long so as he started struggling the teens told us what they saw. 
My son was running, full blast down the alleyway, crossed 2 busy streets without getting hit by a car and just stopped when he saw a ball in someone's backyard.  It was that bright, colorful ball that grabbed his attention.  The boys tried talking to him but since he was non-verbal, didn't say anything.  They weren't sure what to do so they picked him up and figured someone would be looking for him so they just started walking up the way he was running.  Thank God.  Thank God.  There could've been so many things that could've gone wrong that day but someone was with him.  A Guardian Angel, family that passed and was watching over him, I will never know but he was safe and back with us. 

What some people don't understand is parents with autistic children are on hyper alert all the time.  All.  The.  Time.  We don't get a day off.  We don't fully sleep.  We let our guard down for seconds and that is all it took for him to slip out the front door and run. 

We went to the anniversary picnic and that was a horrible experience in itself.  We knew something was off with our son but we didn't know it was autism at the time.  Here is a picture of our family when it was picture time.  See how he is crying and holding his ears.  We should've known but we didn't.  I never knew anyone autistic at the time but I sure know many now. 

We didn't know at the time he was
 autistic.  All the signs were there.


  1. We have those kinds of pictures...the ones that speak volumes after the fact. Im so sorry you went through this scare. I know it never goes away. And you can never really relax. Im so glad you had a guardian angel and he was returned so quickly. xoxo

    1. Thank you for your story also. I feel as if most every autism parent has at least 1 experience with wandering. At the very least.

  2. My son is 2 1/2 and runs away too. Whenever that door opens he runs out. Whenever you're in a store, an office, a park.. you name it, he runs.

    A week or two ago he ran down the driveway and across the street, because he saw a family walking there and he liked the wheels on their stroller. Zero regard for traffic.

    He likes water a lot, but doesn't realize it's dangerous. He would run straight into a lake if we'd let him.

    He wont walk if we hold his hand, he'll drop to the ground and sit there. But if you don't hold his hand, he's off.