Monday, May 20, 2013

A Wandering Child

Two eye opening posts by Lexi over at Mostly True Stuff and by Carolyn at Light and Shadow triggered my need to write about an incident that occurred last week in our very own household.  Our driveway to be exact.

It was quite humorous and most definitely an Ellie antic, but it was also rather scary.

The scenario:

It was a delightfully warm scorching, spring day in Texas and I am briskly walking up my driveway from the mailbox anticipating the pleasures of our fabulously functioning air conditioning.  Only, as I am approaching the house, I happen upon my little girl.  Who was supposed to be safely inside.  As in inside the house.  As in on the other side of door.  You know inside.  Not outside.  Indoors, not outdoors.  As in she should not be greeting me on the driveway.

There is the Bear sauntering down the driveway--barefoot and clad only in a pull-up and a shirt with a glittery cupcake stamped on it.  She is carrying a collapsed umbrella like she is royalty.

My first thought is "what is up with the umbrella and where are her pants?"

Followed by "oh no, her feet!  Oh her feet are going to be scalded!"

Finally, with the realization of "oh crud!  The Bear can open the door. . . and escape".  Which then led to the following:

My daughter could have been hit by a car had she wandered into the street  (or the highway behind our house).

My daughter could have gotten lost.

My daughter could have ended up in a ditch due to a fall.

My daughter could have been kidnapped or victimized.

My daughter, being nonverbal, cannot communicate her name let alone her address and phone number.

The thing is, we keep our doors locked and dead bolted.  I behave as though I still live in center city Philadelphia. Only instead of 3 dead bolts and a door chain, we have only one deadbolt on each door.  However, because I was only getting the mail from the end of our driveway, I didn't lock the door behind me.  Ellie apparently developed some wicked fine motor skills when I wasn't looking and managed to open a lever door knob.

The other thing is, we also have a medical ID band for the Bear.  It is sitting in a drawer doing a whole lot of good.  I got it in pink with a purple tag thinking it would entice her to wear it like the little accessorized diva that she is.  We tried securing it on her ankle last summer.  She tried to use her teeth to gnaw it off.  She is flexible like that.  So there it sits, in a drawer because I would like her teeth to remain firmly implanted in her mouth.

Ellie is a runner.  Even with eyes on her, she could quickly escape a playground or a backyard birthday party.

Little children wandering away from home or a neighborhood party is common.  It is thought to be more common among those with autism, dementia, and developmental delays.  Because of cognitive and communication disabilities, it is difficult to teach a child with autism or Down syndrome not to leave the side of a parent or adult.  You hear about the little kids waking up before their parents and then leaving the house.  Or where the each parent assumes the other is keeping an eye on the child.  Or what about the parent who briefly shifts her eyes to the sibling? Ellie's little escapade happened while I was on our property.

Now, my question is: how much to microchip a toddler?

Oh and what is up with the umbrella?  And where are her pants?

All joking aside, children who are prone to wandering can end up in dangerous situations.  If your child is a wanderer, be sure to notify your neighbors and local law enforcement.

Please visit AWAARE on what to do if you have a child with a disability who is prone to wandering. When a child with special needs wanders away.

Tips from fellow mommies (most of these are for inside the house):

  • Install sliding locks at the top of the doors
  • Interior keyed deadbolts
  • Door alarms
  • Lever door handle child-proof locks
  • Include your tips in the comments section

FYI: if your kid knows how to work a dead bolt, be sure to take your keys with you when you go check the mail, water plants, let the dog out, etc. because your kiddo may lock you out of the house!



  1. Replies
    1. Exactly. . . I wonder wherever I got it from :)

  2. Did you ever solve the mystery of the umbrella?

    1. Nope! I have no idea what goes through her head. I imagine she thought it was a fashion accessory. It wasn't open, but she was carrying it like she was walking down a runway at a fashion show.

  3. It is such a scary thought about what could happen, isn't it? After reading those other posts last week, I did an assessment of our doors and locks. Owen can open the entry door into the garage and that scares me the most because I will frequently leave the garage door open if I leave to get something nearby while he is hanging with Dad. The thought that he could open that door and be gone out of the garage stopped me dead cold on Saturday when I went to the store for a few items. I deadbolted the door when I left and closed the garage door. I'm glad all of our kiddos have been OK but I'm also glad that we are having these conversations too!

    1. Okay Stephanie, the time has come for us to set up a betrothal contract between Ellie and Owen. They are perfect for each other! Yes, I am glad for these conversations too. Our kids are clever in some areas (ie opening doors and perfecting deadbolts), but that concept of something dangerous happening to them isn't there yet. Scary.

  4. Terrifying. Samantha isn't a runner, but we take precautions against the what-ifs anyway. She is perfectly capable of opening the front door and walking out, and who knows what would happen in the even that she suddenly took up sleep walking? So we put in a sliding chain lock at the top of the door to be safe. Good advice to others who may be finding themselves in a very similar situation soon! Glad you found her before she wandered off the property... Whew!

    1. Becca, I remember you post about Sammi playing and you were felt like you really had to watch her because you didn't want her to go into the street. Oh sleep walking!!!!! Good one. My husband was a bad sleep walker--he gets the bathroom confused and one time tried to drive!

  5. Hey--I met a mom at a resource fair (I am a social worker in the special needs community) and she just created this business that relates to kids safety and her son with autism who is prone to wondering off. Thought you may want to check it out!


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