I spent a lot of time this week going through old photos. My father's 70th birthday is this weekend and part of his present includes pictures of his grandkids. (I can't go into more details than that--I don't want to give away the surprise if he reads this.)
One of the main things I've heard, since the day Derek was diagnosed, is that he doesn't "look" autistic. I have no idea what that really means. It's a ridiculous statement. I guess I agree--I don't think Derek "looks" anything but beautiful. I don't think Tyler does either. But, you know what I did notice when I looked through the photographs? It had something to do with me. Derek was always either in my arms, holding my hand, or I had an arm around him. Yes, that's right. The ever-present over-protective mother's arm was always in the picture. Not so much when we were in the house (safe), but if we were outside, or in any type of public place, or if there was a group picture--Derek was with me.
Derek, to this day, has no real concept of danger. He still dashes into the street without looking for cars. He wanders without fear of getting lost. He jumps into the deep end of the pool and doesn't worry about drowning (he can't swim). He has things he doesn't like, mostly related to SPD (dentists, doctors, haircuts, and the like), but I would say he's really not afraid of anything.
I, on the other hand, am terrified most of the time when it comes to my son. I worry about him wandering. I worry about him getting hit by a car. I worry about him drowning. Or getting kidnapped. Or getting taken advantage of. Or getting bullied. Or getting abused. I worry about what happens to him when he's at school, because he can't tell me what happens. Just this week, one of my friends opened the door around lunch time and found her son, who had walked home from school in the middle of the day. Not that big of a deal, right? Wrong. He was an 8 year old autistic boy, who had walked out of his school, unnoticed, and miraculously made it home. He had been bused to school his entire life. His parents didn't even know he knew the way home. The school had no idea he was even gone. You can read about it here. Autistic Boy Wanders. It's unbelievable and unacceptable. We hear about autistic kids that wander all the time. Many of them end up dead. The fact that my friend's son is alive? Nothing short of a miracle. I shudder to think of all the things that could have happened to him on that 15 minute walk home. We always think, "Oh, it won't happen to me." But, I know this family. I have met them in person. I ate dinner at Chik Fil A with them and my kids played with this boy. It can happen to any of us.
My son is an escape artist. I'm sure a lot of autistic kids are. It doesn't seem to matter how many eyes we have in the backs of our heads or how many bolts are on the doors. I'm tired of reading about kids escaping and/or dying.
Project Lifesaver isn't available where I live. (Citizens enrolled in Project Lifesaver wear a tracking device. If a client goes missing, they can be located within minutes. It is ideal for individuals with Alzheimer's, autism, and Down Syndrome.)
Maybe it should be. Something should be.
Until then, I guess my arm will remain in pictures.