Wandering is one of the big problems parents of little kids face, but even more so specifically when their child has Autism. It is one of the issues with Autism that has immediate, possibly dire, consequences. And it can happen in a flash. I've been noticing it a lot more in the news lately, as well as even seeing friends and bloggers sharing their own worst moments of fear.
|Kekito was a clear wanderer shortly after he began toddling.|
I've known since Kekito was a mere 15 months old that he was absolutely a wanderer. I had already noticed the way he checked out of my atmosphere and moved into his own as he wandered off to investigate whatever it was that caught his attention. At that point I thought it had to do more with his age, and that all toddlers must be like that. Then as I read "Emotional Life of the Toddler", (Alicia F. Lieberman, Ph.D.) to find some insight on how to "deal" with our "difficult temperament" toddler, a study she wrote about peaked my interest.
She reported that the study "Attachment behavior out of doors" (published in 1972), observed that nearly 70% of children would not roam beyond a 200 foot radius of their seated mother. They looked to their moms as their secure base and safety provider. They were active participants in learning about their environment, eliciting responses from their mothers, then gauging the safety of things based upon their reactions. The time they spent playing away from their mothers was also relatively short. I knew this sounded nothing like Kekito.
|Image: Arvind Balaraman|
So like any
crazy curious mom, I marched us outside to experiment. I walked with Kekito to a safe place, and walked away. I kept checking over my shoulder very sneakily to keep an eye on him without him being aware. At first he stood watching me, no fear apparent. By the time I disappeared around the corner and peeked, he turned around and marched off in the other direction toward a chained dog. "NOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Come back!!!" That's what I screamed as I wildly ran after him. Still expressionless, he continued toward the dog despite my obvious signal that this was a dangerous plan. At that moment I knew something was definitely off.