Friday, May 17, 2013

It Could've Been Us - An Outpouring of Love For Those That Have Been Lost

Yes! Only a week later and finally done! as I kicked the last empty moving box into the garage. Glanced at the clock, it was 11pm. If I hurried I might be able to take a shower, wash off the stench of unpacking and still be able to catch a few hours of sleep before the kids woke up for school. I quickly hopped in and out and did one last check around the house to make sure the doors were locked and baby gates were positioned before climbing in bed next to my husband. Finally... I thought, as I drifted off. The bright red numbers staring back at me, 11:30.

The beating on the front door jolted me out of my sleep. Heart racing, I glanced at the clock, 1am. Dressed in the first thing we could find, we fumbled our way to the front door to find a Police Officer waiting for us.

"Can we help you Officer?" my husband asked, half conscious.

"Do you have a son?" asked the Officer.

Why was he asking about our son? My heart began to pick up pace as I turned around to glance around the living room. Everything looked in order, nothing out of place. Just before returning my gaze to the Officer, something caught my eye, a cracked door. Bolting my way through the living room and hurdling over the baby gate like an Olympic track star I threw open the door to my sons room.

"David! David! Where is he?! He's gone! Phoenix is gone!" I screamed as I yanked back the blankets from his bed.

Struggling to catch my breath and control my thoughts from depicting horrible scenarios, I felt the hot tears rush down my face as I threw open the door to the bathroom, "Phoenix?!?!" My daughters room, "Phoenix?!?!" I screamed once more, hoping to hear his little voice say something, anything. I stumbled back to the living room, my legs feeling heavier with each step. I forced the words out of my mouth again "He's gone." My husband not yet having grasped what was going on...

"Ma'am can you tell me what your son looks like?"

The room spinning as I tried to answer, "He has Autism. My son has Autism, we just moved here. He's only 3 and a 1/2. There's a creek near by. He doesn't know anyone, Red hair. Red hair, blue eyes. Here..." as I ripped a photo from my purse and shoved it into the Officers chest. I could hear the rain beating off his uniform as he looked at the photo.

"Sounds about right" he said, as he turned around and made a gesture to his Police Car.

Before I could push him out of the way to get a clear look, I heard a familiar voice, "Mommy!" Running up from behind the Officer was Phoenix, pj's soaked and barefoot.

"I played on the slide! My pj's are wet, I need new pj's. I need new pj's! They're wet, they're wet. I'm wet, mom."

I yanked him into the house and squeezed him tighter than I had ever squeezed him in his life. I closed my eyes and breathed in his smell of sweat and rain.

"How did you know, how did you know to come here?" I asked the two Officers, as I wiped my cheeks.

"Your house was the only one on the street with the door open. When we got him in the car, we knew something wasn't right. My nephew has Autism. Sorry Ma'am, I'm Officer Smith." as he reached out and extended his hand.

"Smith?" I asked as I stared blankly at his hand.

"Yes. Officer Joseph Smith."

I knew Heavenly Father had been watching over my son that night.

* * *

Autism is something real and very much alive in our society. 49% of children with Autism attempt to elope from a safe environment, a rate nearly 4 times higher than their unaffected siblings. See link from Child Mind Institute. At some point, 49% of Autism families will experience the reality of their child wandering off. It's *NOT* a lack of parental supervision. In our case we had dead bolts locked, child locks on the door knobs and baby gates up. My Son made it past all of these things and did so while everyone in the house was sleeping. For a week my son had been asking me to go to the park that was 4 houses down from our house. I kept telling him that we would go later, when we were done unpacking. 

Fortunately for us, a woman was driving by the park at 1 am. She barely caught a glimpse of my son in the dark playing on the slide in the rain. She immediately pulled over, grabbed my son and pulled him into her mini van and called the Police. There aren't many days that I haven't thought of this incident that took place 3 years ago (he's almost 6 now [2014]). There are people out there that would have you believe that these incidences you hear of are due to a lack of good parenting. I share this with you to tell you that it's not case. These kiddos/adults sometimes have the desire to leave their environment, it becomes a sudden urge for them. Some might say "All children have that desire." The difference here is that YOUR children will grow out of it, ours wont. Now we have deadbolts on the tops of all of our doors and alarms on all of the doors and windows. We keep them on all day and night.

Instead of casting premature judgements, ask yourself what you can do to help. With the skyrocketing Autism rates, everyone knows someone with Autism. Keep your eyes peeled for un attended children, be aware of your pools. If you have a neighbor with a child that has Autism, ask them if there is anything you should be aware of. And for the love of all that is good, start showing these families some support.

My heart goes out to these families. The Autism community is here to support you. ~Ashlie


  1. OMG. How incredibly scary!!!!!!!! I'm so happy that your precious boy was found safe and sound. Our son too wandered away from home in broad daylight after a party guest left the front door open. It was literally seconds and he bolted. We found him four houses up from ours, playing in the neighbor's front yard. I still have a hard time thinking about that day.

    And you're right. It's time autism families were shown support instead of unfounded judgment!

  2. Wow Ash, you made me cry! That's so scary! Glad someone found Phoenix!