Article first published as Wandering: The Fear of Every Parent on Technorati.
I just read that the 8 year old boy with Autism in Southern California, Joshua Robb, was found in good health. The news made an interesting deal about the fact the boy loved Ozzy Osbourne CD's and rescuers were able to use that to their advantage. But for me, it was a flash back to the pain and anguish that I fear every day: my child with Autism running away.
Wandering, where a child takes off without anyone knowing where he is, is a common problem with children on the Spectrum. They tend to just get it into their heads that they need to go somewhere, and take off. They don't tell anyone where they are going, and sometimes they don't even know where they are going themselves, they just go. Children have been lost for hours, some in dangerous locales, in treacherous weather, and the fear is they will not make it. It's a very real danger.
The boy's last name, Robb, is what really caught my attention. I have a cousin in Southern California, and I didn't know if perhaps they were a relation. It turns out they are not, but I'm still very shaken with the possibility that my cousin could have gone through that ordeal.
You see, Autism in my family is rampant, with most members of my extended family having children on the Spectrum. Some are well known for running, hence my concern. And we all have managed to find ways to make our families more secure.
In my own case, I have placed security doors with double-locking deadbolts on my house. Not to keep burglars out, but to keep my son (and dog) from running loose in the neighborhood. It's not that I'm afraid he will get lost, as he follows the same route when he does run, but I'm afraid he will get hit by a car because he doesn't look when he crosses the street. Of course, this doesn't keep him from running when he is at school, or when getting on or off the bus, or even when getting into the car for a trip. But it keeps him from running at night, or when others are distracted during the day.
I feel for the family in California, both for the fear they had experienced, and the relief they must be feeling that their son has been returned to them safe and sound. It's a fear we parents of children on the Spectrum experience every day.