Autism and Wandering- A Mother’s True Story

There is recent study by the Interactive Autism Network  shows that half of 1367 surveyed families with autistic children aged 4 to 17, said that their child had wandered away at least once after age 4.  Among those families, half said that their children wandered away long enough to cause concern.

This is a cause for concern for parents.  There are many stories in the news about children with autism wandering away or getting lost.  Many parents have their own “wandering away” stories to share.  Some of these misadventures  end with the mother being reunited with their child, but it can also end up in tragedy.

I am very honored to share  Mommy E’s  story about her child A. who got lost in Manila.  She shares this with the intent of letting other parents learn from her experience .  I pray though that we will have fewer incidences of wandering or missing children in the future.

Her story begins like this:

A. got lost  sometime  June 2007 in Grace Park, Caloocan City. He sneaked out from his grandparents’ house when we visited them, @ around 4:30PM, while I was administering medicine to his big sister who had a fever.

Nobody knew in the compound he sneaked out… he was that fast.  We searched for him in the neighborhood, especially among  those who had internet cafes or billiards but he was  nowhere to be found. So I alerted our relatives and friends that A. was missing and asked for their prayers and any other form of help they could give in finding A.  A. is obsessed  with  trains so we tried to figure out if he went into  railroad nearby (me, going to Tutuban,  my husband going to Sangandaan) asking everyone if they have seen a 5yr old boy wearing a blue sando and blue pants, short hair, etc…

It was a  futile search,  so after almost an hour I had  25 copies of his picture (from my cell phone )reprinted to 5 x 4 size at  a nearby mall. I reported /blottered his loss to the police station in 4th Ave and sought their help to find him before it got too dark. But to my dismay, they informed that they will just send out a search after 24hrs!!    I was very frustrated and anxious at hearing this !!  Sabi ko, “ I would understand your protocol if ang nawawala ay binata na maybe nagtanan lang, but ang pinapahanap ko ay isang 5year old boy  na may autism pa! May patrol car kayo, may radio, may telepono hindi ninyo magawa ang mag-search?  Anong gusto nyong  hahanapin –  buhay o patay? They said wala kaming magagawa, protocol na  yan eh… So sabi ko, being a taxpayer,  Is this the service I deserve from our police force to whom we should trust our lives in case like this? Sayang ang taxes na ibinabayad ko sa gobyerno kung napupunta lang sa mga government employees na katulad nyo! “ (Gusto ko na silang pagbabarilin! =))

I went back to my in-laws’ house, printed LOST  BOY with his picture and organized a search team. We searched the roads, I hopped from  one barangay hall to another  while posting the notice of a lost boy, until  we reached Caloocan City Hall. We searched him also sa Jollibee kasi he knew na kapag nawala sya, punta sya sa Jollibee nearby and wait for us there. He’s still nowhere to found… I felt I almost died thinking of the possible things that could’ve happened to him. “ Nasagasaan na ba, dinampot na ng masasamang loob, nalunod na sa ilog! Natataranta na talaga ako, di ko malaman kung nasusuka ako o naiihi ako at parang naglalakad ako sa hangin… T’was the hardest time I had in my life… that I’ve got no one to cling-on but GOD.  I remember what my husband’s cousin told me (he was with me at that time) na A. is with his father, I shouldn’t worry. Sabi ko, pinabayaan nga sya ng Daddy nya kaya nakalabas ng bahay… Sabi nya, No… kasama nya Father nya, di ba caretaker ka lang ni A. ? His words struck me na OO nga ano? God has given me his angel, my special child, to be taken care of. “

My husband’s team  got feedbacks from “tambays”  @ 4th Ave.(along the riles)  that there was a boy, english speaking one, na nakipag jamming in their videoke @ around 5PM. akala nila tagaroon lang… then @ talipapa sa  10th Ave, sabi ng isang tindera na may isang batang umiiyak na ang sabi “Mommy, I’m here, Mommy I’m here!” Naupo daw sa riles pero di niya kinuha baka mapagkamalan pa syang kidnaper… so nakaalis uli.

At around 9:30PM we received  a call from a Baranggay Officical   “ may nag-sauli sa Brgy. 74 Hall ng bata na nakuha at the midst of Samson road (EDSA extension) @ Sangandaan. Nakita sya ng isang matandang lalaki sa gitna ng kalsada, na parang nakikipagpatintero sa mga sasakyan @ around 6PM medyo padilim na… So he picked him up and dinala sa Mini stop kasi mukhang gutom na at umiiyak na. Kinakausap ng matanda si A. pero hindi sya sinasagot kasi tagalong. So itinuro na lang nya ang food & drinks to A. but A. got bottled juice only. Then, isinama na sya sa Brgy. Hall. Ayaw din magsalita ni A. sa brgy. Hall kasi Tagalog ang mga tanong.  Nang makakita ng laruan, nagsalita si A…“ Can I play that?“

How the Baranggay Official get our contact number? It was my husband’s aunt who gave him the number.   She had a terrible feeling that evening and  somehow found out about the situation through my father in law . She asked my father in law “ anong meron sa 2nd Ave at grabe ang kaba nya before 9PM” .  Once she was appraised of the situation  she called the PNP & Phil. Army  sa Crame na hanapin si  A.  at isinumbong ang sentiments ko dun sa police station ng 4th Ave,  @ around 9PM. A matter of 30 minutes, may result na.

When I saw my son at the Baranggay Hall, I couldn’t walk especially when I saw the relief in his eyes the moment he saw me… My heart nearly broke when he said, “Mommy I’m here, like to go home” and when he hugged me, it was the happiest feeling I ever had. That was also the time I found out he was wearing a green sando not blue as I stated what he’s wearing!

What did I learnt from A’s LOST & FOUND experience ?

1)      Make it clear to every family member to keep  their eyes on the lookout for  A. anytime  anywhere.

2)      It’s a must for him to know our names, address and telephone numbers.

3)      It’s a must to have our calling cards fixed to his pockets

4)      It’s a must to have a sturdy dog tag with his name and parents name and contact numbers

5)      Orient him on the consequences of going away and getting lost

6)      A cellphone or SIM card for a GPS for easy tracking (something that could be suick on the dog tag, or on the calling card)

7)      Always remember the exact clothes your child is wearing  =)

8)      Tendencies to wander away should be addressed in ABA, OT and even at home

9)      When your child is lost, BE PERSISTENT. INSIST FOR A SEARCH OPERATION from our military forces… use connections if you have to. Children are defenseless whether they have special needs or not.

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