Or as the song went from my days in high school choir! But, with my middle 5-year old auttie, wandering, or ‘eloping’ is something we guard against regularly. As this recent article indicates, half of the survey respondents said that their autistic child was prone to wandering. Mine would certainly be part of the ones who like to escape now and again.
Our little Houdini, as we affectionately call, has required us to call the police and MPs on multiple occasions when we found he had squeezed through the barely open gate of our backyard fence, or that the lock we had installed to keep him from escaping was no match for our clever and sneaky little Houdini! Yes, there was the one time he took off in the winter with barely no clothes on and only socks on his feet to be rounded up by a neighbor who saw him skipping across a mildly snowy back field in our neighborhood. Then there was the time that he opened up the front window last summer a total of about 8 inches, pushed the screen out and squeezed stealthily out the front window only to be found in the same field skipping away through the picker bushes in his bare feet.
Now, we keep chain locks or other fancy and expensive gizmos on the doors to keep him from escaping. We make sure that the gates in the fenced-in backyard are secured with locks so he can’t even think about squeezing out! We flyer the neighborhood with his picture and to warn our neighbors about our son’s autism, and we label all of his shoes with an ID bracelet of sorts that his our contact information on it in case he is found alone.
When I return, usually out of breath and a little shaken after losing him and learning yet another way on what DOESN’T work to secure my little disappearing magician, I at some point wonder what is he thinking as he is on his little walkabout! When we bring him back home he usually has a little smile on his face and a bit of strange, beaming pride. It’s as almost as if he is saying with his facial expressions and posture, “I knew what I was doing the whole time, calm down, I got this” (perhaps he is saying that, lol). I wonder if he had a destination, or did he just want to go for a walk without anyone? Did he have any intentions in mind or a goal when he escaped? I don’t know, but as soon as he is able to more readily communicate I am going to ask him! Maybe he just had the same feeling Forest Gump had when he one day just, “felt like running.” I don’t know. It scares us, but he seems to like it.
Do you have a little wanderer? Where has he or she disappeared to? Have you ever had your heart stop when you can’t find him like I did the first time he escaped when he was 2 and we lived near a very busy road? How do you keep your little Houdini contained?
Ah, the joys of parenting a child with autism!