Why do autistic children wander? My scariest moment as a mom.


My scariest moment as a mom

Today, I’ve decided to share with you just about the scariest moment I’ve been through as a mother. It happened almost a month ago. It was terrifying. I try my hardest to always see the positive in bad situations and that’s why I’m writing this post.

It was a Sunday, and Willy was out. I was home alone with Charlie and Jude. Charlie was watching Curious George in the living room, as always, and I was in the back bedroom when Jude came running to me screaming, “Meow-Meow! Charlie! Meow-Meow! Charlie!” over and over again. There was a panicked tone to his voice. He was talking very fast, flapping his hands, and his eyes were huge! Jude then took off towards the living room and I immediately followed him.

The escape

That’s when I saw it: the front door was wide open. Charlie was gone. Kiwi was gone. I got an instant blast of adrenaline… I was terrified. My first reaction was to pick Jude up and run to the street next to our house. This street is known for cars driving too fast down it. Charlie wasn’t there. Our neighbor was outside and joined the search, and we took off the other direction, shouting his name even though I knew he wouldn’t respond. It must have been ten entire minutes later that we found him. These were the longest 10 minutes of my life. 

Two doors down from us there’s a little alleyway that curves around behind the houses. When I found Charlie at the end of it, he wasn’t happy. He was having fun, playing behind a pickup truck and had no idea he had done something bad. He was mad at me for finding him and started screaming. Charlie has no sense of danger whatsoever. He was just upset I crashed his party. I don’t know what it is about autistic kids and running away.

I surprised myself by how calm I stayed the entire time. It was such a relief to see Charlie and I was only a few seconds away from calling the cops. It’s been almost a month now and I still feel guilty. I feel bad because we knew Charlie can open doors. He had not tried to escape in over a year so I let my guard down. We added an extra baby proof thingy on the doorknob, made sure the door is always locked, and we ordered an “alarm” that goes off for when the door is open. Ironically, I had ordered him a new medical cuff with my phone number on it just a couple of days before that happened.


Jude, my hero

Here’s the positive from this ordeal. Jude. He was a hero. He’s always imitating Charlie. Always. He’s only two but instead of following his big brother on an adventure in the streets, he alerted me. He knew it was wrong! I’ve never been so proud. I don’t know what would have happened if Jude hadn’t come to get me. I don’t want to think about it. He might have saved Charlie’s life.

Why do autistic children wander?

According to this study posted on the Autism Speaks website, wandering is very common and is not usually caused by inattentive parents (nice to hear…).

Using parent surveys, the researchers found that nearly half of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) attempt to wander or bolt from a safe, supervised place. More than half of these wandering children go missing – often into dangerous situations.

Importantly, the researchers found evidence that autism-related wandering does not stem from inattentive parenting. It also found that half of all parents had received no help or guidance on how to deal with the problem.


What you can do if your autistic child likes to wander

If your child is a runner, or has ever tried to run away, NEVER let your guard down. It doesn’t matter if they haven’t tried to escape in years. Properly use multiple locks, have an audible alarm, or use another system that clearly alerts you if anything is happening that shouldn’t be. Additionally, get a medical safety cuff, or a bracelet with some identifying or contact information. It’s worth it to plan ahead for events like this because I didn’t think Charlie was going to do something like this. From now on, though, we’re prepared.

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  • Reply
    2017-10-25 at 3:06 AM

    So scary! It’s great the way Jude reacted to protect his big brother and meow-meow, I’m also super proud of him, go Super Jude!

  • Reply
    2017-10-25 at 3:46 AM

    Wow, it’s amazing how Jude reacted the way he did! Way to go little brother! I am so happy that Charlie was found safe ❤️

  • Reply
    2017-11-01 at 11:33 PM

    Awesome job Jude!!! Good looking out for your big brother!

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