Any kid can wander off. I know I did. I remember feeling the terror when I walked off, more than once, in a big department store and with each aisle my anxiety grew ask I called for my parents. In my mind, I was "lost" for much longer than I really was and all along my mother knew I was just over an aisle, all of ten feet away. Granted I shouldn't have walked off and my mom probably panicked and got mad the first few times but it was a "mostly locals" type of area we lived in and my other two siblings were always with me. So more or less I was in very little danger. But in that same scenario take away my voice, make me afraid of even friendly help and diminish my ability to understand language and add in sensory issues any store or outdoor surroundings might offer and we might be scratching the surface of what its like for a autistic child to get lost.
I wrote recently of my own mini heart attack in the post Those Who Wander Aren't Always Lost, Sometimes They're Toddlers. So in the smallest microscopic way I know a second of this woman's terror. And as much as I agree with people who comment along the lines of "where were the parents? why was this child left in the yard with just her brother?" I can't help but ignore them because they have no idea what they are talking about. They don't know if the mother was outside with them (some report say she was) or if she slipped in for a second, turned her back etc. They could have a fenced in yard and she might have assumed they would be fine like all of the afternoons they had played before that one. Of course, we now know that assumption was wrong and sadly she has gone on to a better place but to suggest her parents didn't love her, want her anymore or she is better off dead, as some commenters did, disgusts me.
Last night in the car, as we drove home from the city, Alex and I were discussing this Sunday's Walk for Autism in our local area. We have tried and failed miserable to get Xander to wear his I.D. bracelet and its a source of anxiety for us seeing as he is just now starting to respond to his name half the time during the come-when-called part of his daily sessions. But even then who wouldn't come running when they know they get a hug and a chocolate chip each time! So we were brainstorming ideas on what to do as far as a form of id goes. We had seen temporary tattoos a while back but there's no time to order them and get them in time for Sunday, but its a great idea if we had looked into it sooner. Half jokingly, my husband said hold him down and grab a sharpie. And at the moment, that's the plan. His name and my phone number will likely be written somewhere on his arm or leg in big sharpied letters just in case he somehow slips away. To be honest, if my son ever got lost, I'd want it to be at an autism event. At least the parents would all know exactly how to handle the situation and it would be as close to a judgement free environment as possible. Though I could go a thousand years without "misplacing" my child so the location for most comfort in that situation is moot. My prayers go out the family and others like them. I can't even imagine, nor do I want to.
Hug your kids tonight and watch them extra close.