Instant panic.

That feeling you get when you turn around and your child isn’t there.

I could tell you about the time when we were in a hotel near StoryLand in New Hampshire.  Howie was three.  We were staying in one of those two room suites where you could close off the bedroom from the other part of the room.  I had baby Lewis ready for the shower, and I went into the bedroom part of the suite and handed him into the bathroom to Tim.  Howie and Gerry were in the other room. Gerry was watching a Red Sox game on the TV.

I come out of the bathroom and Howie is gone.

“Howie?  Howie?  Where are you?”

No answer.

I check in the closet.  The drawers.  Behind the table. Is he hiding from me because he doesn’t want a shower?  Playing a game? Both rooms together are about 700 square feet.  He’s nowhere.

“Gerry!  Where is Howie??”

His eyes shift to me from the TV.  “I don’t know.”

“Howie!!  Howie!!”  But I know full well he won’t answer to my screams.

After what seems like a lifetime, I notice that the door to the room is slightly ajar.  I run out into the hallway.

At the end of the hall I see Howie.  In nothing but a pull-up.  I grab him just as a man comes out of his hotel room.

“I looking for you.” he said.

He was trying to find where I was when I went into the bathroom.  The door to the hallway looked like the door to the bedroom in our hotel room.  He opened the wrong one and left.

**********

I could tell you the statistics.  This from the National Autism Association: “a study released in Pediatrics showed that 49% of children with autism like Mikaela are prone to wandering, a rate four times higher than their unaffected siblings. This indicates that this is not an issue of bad parenting. From 2009 to 2011, 23% of children who died following a wandering incident were in the care of someone other than a parent”

I could tell you that I know I am lucky that my kids aren’t bolters. For the most part they stay with me in unfamiliar and familiar places.  But they lack impulse control.  They don’t answer to their names when called.  And all it would take is that One. Split. Second.

But there are many children who do run.  With no sense of fear or danger.  Kids that will follow a butterfly down to a creek or decide it’s time to leave and get in the car and lock themselves in.  These are  my friends’ stories.  And their friends’ stories.

I could tell you that three little ones lost their lives this week after wandering and drowning.  Three.

But instead…

To honor Mikaela and Owen and Drew I am doing one thing today.

I am printing out the First Responder profile form for my kids and bringing it to our local police and fire departments.  It’s on page 10 of this PDF.

It has questions like: Other Relevant Conditions (other than autism): _ No Sense of Danger   _ Nonverbal    _Attracted to Water    _Seizures

It has a info sheet with tips for searching for an autistic child and how to interact with a child once found.

It has a spot for a recent photo.

It’s one more layer of protection for my boys.

I urge you to do the same for your child too.

My heart is with the Lynch, Black and Howell families today and always.  We are with you.

Would you know my name
If I saw you in heaven?
Would you feel the same
If I saw you in heaven?
I must be strong and carry on
Cause I know I don’t belong here in heaven” – Tears in Heaven by Eric Clapton

Many special needs bloggers are joining together today to bring comfort to the families and to shine a light on autism and wandering.  To read them, click HERE for the link up at Adventures in Extreme Parenthood

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