Saturday, March 26, 2011

Running away

LOL! I love the title to this one! I wonder how many people will tune in and think that I am the one running away? LOLOLOL! Forget the Mom Cave! I'm hopping in my cool mini van and driving to the Great Unknown! hahahahahha!

Nope. That's not an option. I don't even consider it. We are a family of people who depend upon each other.

Our older son first pulled up to a standing position at seven months old. I thought that he was a genius. He took his first steps at ten months old. He always had in him this intense desire to go, go GO!!! What I didn't understand at the time is this intense desire was actually a sensory "fight or flight" response to his world around him. He was deathly afraid of everything in this world, and he was running to get away.

I saw this fear in his eyes when he was a newborn in the hospital. His breaths came out in gasps as if he were being startled, and his eyes would frantically dart around aimlessly. I knew it wasn't right, but I was a hormonal new mom. I wiped the thought out of my mind and cemented a smile on my face.

Once he became skilled at walking, he tackled running, and my husband and I have never known life to be the same. Our son became a bolter. He would run out of the house, away from us in public and across the street. As he grew, he learned to open and jump out of car doors as well as dart in and out of the closing doors to an elevator. As he aged, the flight response was joined with free will and desire. Maybe he just WANTED to go somewhere and didn't care about our opinion. He would run away from us to do what it was he wanted. We always have to be on guard.

One day when he was five, he told us that he wanted to go to a local mall. "Eastview Mall," he said. "No, not now." "Eastview Mall!!" he insisted. "No. Lunch first. Then Eastview Mall."

He did not like this plan. He cried. He melted down. He really lost his temper. I simply worked to put together lunch so that we could get to the darned mall and give ourselves some peace.

At some point in the cooking process, I noticed that he was quiet. I was proud of him for calming. But, then I noticed that there was NO noise. He usually makes SOME noise. Toys would bang. He would hum. I called his name once. Nothing. I called it again as I began running to the stairs that led to his room. That's when I saw it.

The front door was open.

He had gotten out of the house. He'd beaten the lock on the door, and he had gone. How long ago, I didn't know. But now, for the first time in his life, our nonverbal son had escaped, and we didn't know where he was.

I screamed at the top of my lungs for my husband, and we both ran out of the house, scanning in every direction for him. Nothing. No sighting. Just NOTHING!!!! WHERE WAS HE???

My husband took off running down the street one way. I went back into the house to grab our younger son, who was two years old at this point, and I threw him into the car to start driving. I couldn't call for help. We hadn't told anyone about our son's diagnosis. We wanted to give him a chance to change. We didn't want him labeled. We wanted him to beat this thing. By trying to protect him, we had ultimately put him in harm's way.

And now, he was alone and nonverbal out on the streets. We were calling out his name, and he couldn't even answer us.

The next couple moments were the longest of my life, but I soon spotted them, my husband walking up the hill on the sidewalk holding our son's hand. Our little boy was barefoot, holding his blankies and a stuffed Barney.

"Eastview Mall," he said, as I hugged him tightly. "Lunch first, buddy." I said in return.

We drove the short distance home, and my husband immediately nailed that door shut. It remains nailed to this day. He changed the locks, and we now carry a full house alarm system on all the doors and windows.

Still, he learned to jump the fence in the back yard. My husband's parents had to build a taller fence. And, even now, when we walk with him in stores, his mind is always working on how he can ditch us. It has worked two times in the nearly five years following that first incident.

Nothing is worse than not knowing where your child is, particularly when that child has autism. If I could change just one thing in my next life, I would ask that, instead of running away from me, I would have a child that would run to me.

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