Day 15: Autism Awareness Blogathon (half way!! and happy birthday Judy Sharp)

I come from a big loud, rambunctious, opinionated family. My four siblings and I were brought up in the days when we’d get sent out of the house during the day and wouldn’t be back till it was getting dark. We’d manage to entertain ourselves one way or another and got up to all kinds of shenanigans our parents never found out about.

There was no fence on our yard and we lived on a reasonably busy road, a block away from a very busy road. My littlest brother was a cheeky little daredevil who got up to all kinds of naughtiness and one strong memory I have from when he was about 2 was opening the door to a policeman holding my baby brothers hand. He was stark naked and had been found wandering up the street. I saw the blood drain from my poor mother’s face. None of us had realised he wasn’t in the house.

These days I live on a small street that runs between two busier streets. Unfortunately a lot of people use my street to zip between these bigger streets. I’ve been living here for nearly seven years ( yes…people who know me….seven years!!!) and have been slowly fixing my little house up.

After planning it for several years with my neighbours, a couple of years ago we both put in a new front fence and a fence between our properties. Before that our joint backyards had been referred to as ‘the park’ by visiting kids.

I’d been getting more and more concerned about my boy and his gleeful sprints in the opposite direction whenever I called him. He had (and still has) no traffic sense at all. He couldn’t tell you if he was on the road or the footpath. He likes cars. He loves their badges and used to have to touch every car’s badge as we walked through a car park. More recently he loves the exhaust pipe. It doesn’t matter how many times I tell him that they are hot and not to touch, he is compelled to touch them.

So this is not a good combination. We had a couple of close calls. Once when we were in the front yard he took off as fast as his feet would carry him, straight out onto the street in front of the house. I can still see his excited and thrilled face as he turned around to look for me. I ran towards him my hands waving madly at the oncoming traffic to slow down/stop. Luckily, there was only one car coming, but if they had come about three seconds earlier – this is my nightmare.

When we finally made the arrangements to have the new fence put in it was an enormous relief. I went for a 6ft high fence and my wonderful luxurious automatic gate for the car. Now he will be safe, I thought. He couldn’t reach the latch for the pedestrian gate, he couldn’t open the gate for the car. Contained! I could relax a bit more when we were downstairs playing in the yard.

One Saturday morning earlier this year I had been cleaning up the morning chaos when I heard a knock on my front door. It was my neighbour from across the road. He could see my boy at the end of the street flicking his ribbon and watching the traffic whizzing past. He didn’t want to approach him as he was afraid he would run – good decision. I ran as quietly and quickly as I could towards him, but had to make sure he didn’t turn around to see me coming. If he had, he would also have run – and not towards me. Luckily I made it to him without him realising.

With a million thank you’s to my neighbour, I got him inside. The adrenalin was coursing through my body like a raging torrent.  Somehow, he’d got out of the house and unlatched the front gate and walked about 50m up the street. I had to find out how. Had someone (or I) left the gate unsecured? Was there somewhere he could get through that I didn’t yet know about?

A couple of days later we were in the front yard again and, to test the situation, I casually asked to him open the gate. Over he went to the gate, got up on his tippy toes, pointed his finger towards the latch (this is a kid who NEVER points) and jumped a little to flip it up so that he could pull the gate open. His OT & Physio might have been impressed, but I wasn’t!

I just stood there shaking my head in disbelief. At least now I knew how he’d got out. Of course the security has been a lot tighter since then, but I hate that. I want him to have a yard where he is safe to roam around, find some fun, wander through the garden, ride a bike and push the laundry trolley to his hearts content and not need me peering anxiously over his every move like some paranoid helicopter parent.

I haven’t done it yet, but I’m about to get some kind of alarm system that goes off when someone enters or leaves through the front gate. I already have a sign on the gate asking people to close it, but I think I have to up the ante there as well. I’m also thinking about some personal tracking system and/or some kind of medical id that he will allow to stay on. I may also have to put some kind of extension onto the front fence to give it some more height at some point. Luckily he’s not too much of a climber, but things change. I want to be ready for that.

Autism Day by Day has some great suggestions for making your home and more importantly, your child, safe.

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8 thoughts on “Escapology

  1. I feel your frustration! We’ve had to put a rule in place where Colin isn’t allowed out in the back yard without one of his brothers or an adult. Colin is a climber, but usually his worst offenses in the yard are throwing things into the neighbors yards or dismantling things in our yard.

    When we get to a street, her gets

  2. Silly cell phone…

    When we get to a street, he understand the basic concepts…but execution is a bit questionable. When you say “look both ways before you cross” he swings his face left to right WHILE walking into the street lol

      • Thanks! That was a fun challenge. I asked the boys what they wanted to be for Halloween that year and C’s first answer was “rock star” and I thought, “Oh my goodness! I’m getting off easy!!”

        Then he went, “No…no… a DISCO BALL. I wanna be a disco ball!”

        Before it was stuffed, my husband was quite skeptical. He just looked at what I’d made and went, “Um…that looks like a dress.” 🙂

  3. It’s that matter of looking. He’s showing you that he is doing what you ask, without perhaps understanding what you are really directing him to do. My son was a runner when he was young. We ended up putting hook & eye spring latches high up on all the doors in the house.

    • Thanks for your comment Ann. Yes, he definitely showed me. I’m glad that he did too. I do have little latches around the house – being able to lock off different rooms is very helpful at times. My boy just loves opening and closing doors and can do it for hours at a time. He can walk past an open door!

  4. Great post, Rose! For most of his life my Sam has had no fear at all of traffic. Most folks just don’t understand or appreciate the fact that some of these kids will walk right on out in the street and expect cars to stop for “them.” So I know the fear!

    Regarding escapes, once I lost Sam in a shopping mall for about 25 of the worst minutes of my life. I literally turned my back for a minute or so and he was gone. Fortunately things turned out alright, but it was one of the worst, bottomless-pit feelings I’ve ever had in my life. I may post on it one day—I don’t know. (Now-a-days we insist that he carry a cell phone now as a way of locating him if something—God forbid—like this happens again.)

    Keep up your great posts!

    • Terrifying! Thanks goodness Sam can use a phone and some of them have a kind of tracking/location thing as well. I wouldn’t necessarily call L a ‘runner’ but he takes such gleeful pleasure in running away from me when I call him. I’m working on it – I know how important it is, but we are nowhere near it at the moment. I often have to use reverse psychology or ignoring to get him to come to me. He thinks it’s hilarious! I don’t!

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