Saturday, August 9, 2008

where's Waldo?

I am obsessive about lost children. I had a scary experience as a teacher when in one of our Special Education preschool classes there was a child with autism who was low enough functioning to be non verbal but high enough to think it was funny to run away. Our school was in rural area with an enormous area beyond the playground. Daily, he'd try to run away from his teacher- turning back to see if she'd chase. The administration didn't take us seriously when we tried to express our concern, although they were quick to blame when he'd escape the classroom and get up to the front office (or once, outdoors). The teacher tried to keep him on a "leash" but not only did it not give him any freedom on the playground at all, but the administration "thought it looked like he was being treated like an animal."

Then one day he took off from the playground and got far enough away from the teachers that we were afraid to chase him. If he went further, he'd be leaving the school grounds. And the area was unfenced. He did. Help was called, teachers struggled as to whether they should be watching their own class or helping her, but in the end he did get too far away to be followed. A police helicopter found him, about a mile from the school, across a road. (This doesn't have much to do with my post, but the administration's reaction to this was to fence three sides of the playground.)

Now I have my own kids and I worry about them getting lost. Maybe I started this because of work, but ever since I started going on field trips with my kids, I've made them tell me the What To Do If You Get Lost Rules in every parking lot ever since. They roll their eyes at me when I make them verbalize the rules. But I do it anyway. The Rules are:

1. Don't move.
2. Yell my name. Not "Mama" but my name. (They review)
3. Find a mom with kids and ask for help.

I also usually put a piece of masking tape or a mailing label on their backs with my cell phone number on it. I prefer to not put a name, but with my phone in my pocket it should be all they need.

And then Bug gets lost. Often. And he forgets all the rules, every time.

I'm about to throttle him. He got lost today at Stone Mountain. I thought he was in the bathroom, his dad thought he was with me, so neither of us even knew to look for him for a good five minutes. I think he was in tears and a family/some adults held onto him until I located him. I yelled his name and an oncoming family told me he was up ahead. Quite a ways. What he was doing in that direction I'll never know. Like I'll never know the whole story from Fernbank, from Little League Opening Day, from Busch Gardens, from Conner Prairie (twice in ten minutes) or any of the other scary places he's gotten lost.

He is a very loud child. (I am wording that tactfully.) He talks to adults and unfamiliar kids easily when I'm around. But he has never, at any of those times when he's been lost, remembered the What To Do If You Get Lost Rules. Clearly when he's scared he clams up, wanders around to find us and is intimidated about asking for help. I am not sure what else to do with the boy. Is it leash time?


Post a Comment