Susan's Blog

Friday, February 18, 2011

Gift of God

Nathaniel means “gift of God,” from the Hebrew Natan-El.

About 20 minutes ago I got the call that every mother dreads most:  “We can’t find Nat at this moment.”  I was out with my friend Lisa and I didn’t know what to do first.  I called Ned at home.  He hadn’t heard this.  He got into the car immediately to drive to where the social group had been.

My friend put me into a cab and I called the social group leader back.  “YOU HAVE TO BE FUCKING KIDDING ME”  I screamed.  “Where is he?”  The wine I’d had was going to come right up.  My stomach lurched.  My phone beeped.  My friend was asking what was happening.  I called Ned, and he was on his way.

Where was Nat?  They said that they got distracted for a moment when one of the social group kids got picked up by her dad to go home.  They did a head count and it was only three.  Nat was gone.

I was sick to my stomach, screaming in the cab.   He’s gone.  He’s gone?  What are the chances you can find a young autistic man in a crowded hockey stadium?  He’s gone.  This is the worst thing that could happen to a person.  If someone tells you that autism is the worst thing that could happen to a child, they don’t know anything.  My darling, my Nat.

And the weird thing was, when I dropped him off this evening, the group leader seemed kind of — tentative.  Young.  Nat was doing a wide circuit around him and I yelled out twice, “Nat, stay with the group!”  I looked back to see where Nat was, and he was with the group, so I let him go, but there was a small tiny voice that was wondering… But he’s been doing this for years, don’t be silly, Susan.

My phone rings a few seconds later, “We have Nat.  We have him.  He’s okay.”

“Where was he?  He’s okay?”

“We are not sure where he was but I had checked all the bathrooms and had the entire stadium locked down.  He’s okay.”

She put him on the phone.  “Hi,” he said.  It was my darling’s voice.   God has now given me this gift, twice.


Mine has wandered off here on the farm 3 times so far…. it’s the longest 15min of your life. For us, we know he knows exactly where he is… and once he returned while Dh was looking for him across the road and us in the barns and we saw him cross back to the play yard… but that doesn’t help during the rush to find him.

Mine went to see Disney on Ice at the beginning of Feb and I too had the bigger fear of him being lost. They were worried about the sounds and lights…. he had a blast and they made certain he held hands whenever he was not in his seat. He recites his social story for the trip every so often so I know they added that request to it.

But, I too waited all day with the cellphone in hand and ready to go to the city…

Think we’ll ever get over that fear??

— added by farmwifetwo on Saturday, February 19, 2011 at 7:20 am

No, I don’t think we’ll ever get over this fear. And I am not going to be so stupid about making sure he has ID and whatever else.

— added by Susan Senator on Saturday, February 19, 2011 at 7:58 am

Horrible and scary. I’d still be pissed that they ended up not knowing where he went for that time period. Particularly in such a big place with so many people.

— added by Nancy on Saturday, February 19, 2011 at 8:33 am

Holy cow. I am glad they called you immediately. I’m glad they found him quickly. We have temporary tattoos for Joey when we’re going someplace with wandering potential (such as the fair or the beach) because even with 1:1 attention of his parents, Joey can wander, Joey could get frustrated and bolt… it is terrifying. Sending hugs to help you recover from that heart-stopping moment.

— added by Joeymom on Saturday, February 19, 2011 at 8:50 am

So sorry you had this experience. That is the call we are most fearful of with these kiddos. I am heartened to hear that they group leader called you quickly instead of trying to solve the problem solely on her own, and that they locked the facility down. That being said, I’m sure you wanted to slap her for losing your boy!! 😉

— added by Terri Packard on Saturday, February 19, 2011 at 9:26 am

Each of my guys has gone missing and it is the worst feeling in the world. I still remember running as fast as I could while gasping for air as I cried – utter panic. I am so glad Nat was found safe and sound.

— added by Suzette on Saturday, February 19, 2011 at 10:58 am

Oh, thank God. I can’t imagine how you must have felt when you got that call. I am SO glad they found him so quickly. I lost my guy with autism when he was six at a street fair. He was gone for about 15 minutes. It was the worst thing that has ever happened in the entire world, as far as I’m concerned. We called 911, appropriated the beer brat vendor’s megaphone, ran around in panicky circles… Jack had found a quiet space and was completely unconcerned. “But I knew where I was,” he said. The worst.

— added by Stimey on Saturday, February 19, 2011 at 6:54 pm

I lost mine once. He ran away from the car in the middle of town. I had police out looking for him, convinced he was lost, he has no sense of where he is. We found him at home on the porch. Worst 20 minutes of my life.

I am very glad that you found him safe, and I hope you don’t have to go through it again.

— added by Martinsma on Saturday, February 19, 2011 at 9:38 pm

We’ve also had a few of those pure-panic-worst-fifteen-minutes-of-our-lives moments, and yes, they always seem to involve me cursing at the top of my lungs.

A few years ago, some nice behavior consultants from a local DD board-funded agency gave my kid lessons in what to do if he’s lost — the short version of this is, find someone behind a counter (i.e., a store clerk, the librarian, etc.), and hand over your “Can you call my mom for me?” ID card. There was lots of role-playing out in the community, with me slinking away while my kids wasn’t looking, while the behaviorists coached and then faded their efforts and watched from afar.

He hasn’t gotten lost since, but that’s probably part luck and part he’s matured enough now to understand that he has to stay near whomever it is brought him to wherever he is. But should he get lost again, would he realize it and remember the the steps to take with his ID card? What I hope for, and what I’d bet a lot of money on are not the same things.

— added by Ohio Mom on Sunday, February 20, 2011 at 2:08 pm

Oops,should be “when my kid (singular) wasn’t looking”

— added by Ohio Mom on Sunday, February 20, 2011 at 2:10 pm

I’m thinking about getting GPS. I think about it all the time. We have briefly lost one twin in an airport and a few times on playgrounds. Also had to have Barnes and Noble on lockdown once. The hardest part of autism (for me) is this.

— added by Alice on Tuesday, February 22, 2011 at 10:42 am

Absolutely terrifying. So sorry you had to go through that, and so thrilled he was found. Shame on them!

— added by kim mccafferty on Tuesday, February 22, 2011 at 11:39 am

This has happened to me more than once with the police being called twice when Matthew 1) managed to get lost in a doctor’s office parking lot (police found him) and once when he was able to open the lock on our front door and was practically across town (police found him 2nd time) wearing only sweat pants, a t shirt and no shoes. You’re right to be concerned and panicked when this happens. I’m always reminding myself of Gordon Page, Jr. a young 27 year old autistic man who left the group home he was living in Michigan 1991 and has never been seen since.

— added by Sharon Jones on Tuesday, February 22, 2011 at 11:54 am

My nightmare. I get sick thinking of that happening in a supermarket, forget an arena with multiple exits, and that number of people.
Thank God for his safe return.

— added by Jacquie on Friday, February 25, 2011 at 9:10 am

Oh my gosh! What a nightmare! How could that guy in charge of the group (and he had an assistant, right?) have been unable to keep track of only FOUR kids? When I taught a class of eight autistic teens, several of whom were “runners,” we never once lost one, not for a moment. I hope that was a wakeup call for the young man who let himself get distracted.
My eldest son cheerfully told me when he got back from a high school class trip to Italy that he had missed the bus back from Pisa and had to make his own way back to the hotel 60 miles away. When he got back nobody even knew he had been missing! I know it’s easier when a kid is neurotypical but it still makes a parent’s heart miss a beat.

— added by Sunni on Tuesday, March 1, 2011 at 8:21 am

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