Saturday, September 24, 2016

Wandering Woes

I saw a post on the NAA FB page asking for parent testimonials.  They wanted to know how the Big Red Safety Box had helped families.  Since we were recipients several years ago, and since the contents in the box helped curb Ronan's wandering instantly, I offered to share our story.  

 Big Red Safety Box 


Years ago, as my husband and I realized that our son, Ronan, had left the house, we immediately took off to find him.  My husband went running down the street while I went running up it.  After he slipped out of the house undetected, he managed to cross the street.  Ronan continued to walk and ended up in our neighbor’s backyard.  Beyond that backyard was a lake. 

My husband heard Ronan first.  Bolting through the neighbor’s yard, he ran as fast as he could.  Even though only a few minutes had passed since we discovered that Ronan had left the house, Ronan was in the lake. He did not know how to swim. Ronan desperately gripped the cold and slippery piling of the neighbor’s dock.  With teeth chattering and hair and clothing soaking wet, we were lucky to find Ronan when we did.

That day still haunts my memory.  It was late January.  Despite the sunshine, the temperature was below freezing.  Almost fully submerged by the time we got to him, his clothing was beginning to weigh him down. After getting Ronan out of the water, we breathed a sigh of relief. But only for a moment. Having read that children with autism are prone to wander – and seek bodies of water like Ronan just had when they wander, I was terrified. I knew I needed help and quickly to make sure this didn’t become a habit for my son.  The people we needed at that moment were the members of the National Autism Association (NAA). 

Once I contacted the NAA and told them what had happened, they quickly set out to find resources in our community.  At the time, our community was not willing to work with us.  Instead of letting that be the final answer, the NAA went to bat for us again.  Their efforts, and the items in the Big Red Safety Box that they donated to us, gave us time.  It also gave us hope.

We immediately installed the door chimes we were given and posted the visual aid (stop signs) on every door that lead outside. Those helped. Those, and knowing that we were not alone in trying to solve the potentially life-threatening situation that wandering brings, helped a great deal. 

Ronan is still prone to wander, but we have equipment in place to assist us at a moment’s notice. I know that if we ever need further support from the National Autism Association, they will assist us with not just with resources, but also with hope.


A few days after I wrote that testimonial, I was cleaning out a hutch that we have.  It has beautiful woodwork and hinged doors that, when opened, reveal several compartments.  It used to house some of our electronics, but I've been using it for storage for some time now.  In it is a box of my kids' artwork that I've saved, some medical EOBs that I need to sort through, and an extra copy of Ronan's medical records.  As I sorted through the medical records, I found the Be REDy booklet that we received from NAA when Ronan began to wander again.  

Every few years he seems to go through a wandering phase.  Every few years I reach out once more to the NAA for updated advice.  The last time I needed them, they sent me the Be REDy bookletRonan's had 2 wandering incidents in recent weeks, so the timing of finding that booklet could not have been more perfect.  I kept it out so that I could read through it again.  

I sorted through more papers and another pile of mementos when I saw something else.  Stuffed behind the papers and the booklet was a small yellow fleece jacket.  It's the only article of clothing in the hutch.  It's also the only article of clothing that instantly takes my breath away.  That fleece jacket was the jacket Ronan was wearing the day we almost lost him in the lake that freezing cold day so many years ago.  

Why save it?  

Why hold onto it?  

Why not throw it out or at least give it away?  

Why keep something that instantly reminds me of one of the worst days of my life?  The only answer I have is, I don't know.  I don't know why I saved something like that.  It's not like it brings back happy memories.  Hardly!  I remember that day so clearly - the intense emotions, the terrible worry, and the awful, awful fear.  I remember the relief and the thanks-be-to-God moment that followed once we got Ronan safely home, but it truly was the worst day of my life.  

I have a piece going up tomorrow on Age of Autism about wandering.  (Follow this link to read that post.) In the piece I share resources and the latest legislative efforts regarding autism and wandering. It's an important piece, but I almost didn't write it.  

Wandering is never easy to write about.  It would be so much easier to write about something hopeful and happy that Ronan's done lately.  So when I sat down to start typing that piece, I hesitated.  

But only for a second.  

Until parents like me never have to worry about their children leaving their homes undetected, through the tears, through the pain, and through the awful, awful reminders of just how fatal wandering can be, I will continue to write about it. 

xo, Cat


For more information on wandering, please look at the NAA and the ASC websites.  

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Ho Hum Home

I wasn't supposed to be home today.  I had made plans to be out allllllll day long.  You know what they say about those best-laid plans though...


I get little reminders every now and then that are just perfectly timed.  This towel, that I happened to grab to cover a tray of snacks I made for IzBiz, had a perfectly timed message:  

Home is where the heart is.  
I was supposed to be out to lunch today with my BFF and another very good friend.

I was supposed to be getting groceries today, too. 

I was also supposed to be volunteering in a classroom today. 

But nope, nope, and nope. 

I thought I really needed to be out of the house and busy and doing my own thing.  But my IzBiz is home with the sniffles.  She needs me.  And I need to be with her.  

The groceries can wait, and of course, everyone understands that I can't be of assistance today.  I hated to break my plans, but I had to. 

It doesn't matter how many plans I make.  It doesn't matter how any good intentions I have.  It doesn't matter how much I yearn to be outside of the house.  On days like today, days when one of my children needs me the most, home is where my child home is where I am, too.

xo, Cat

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Keeping Track

Ronan is learning about Geography this school year.  Last year, he became familiar with several of the states.  He can successfully identify 10 states and not just by their shape.  I can ask him, Where do Mama and Papa live?  Where does Aunt So and So live?  Show me where Uncle So and So lives.  Point to where you were born.  The more open-ended the questions are tell me he's able to learn more than just a basic fact.  He can make personal and meaningful associations to an abstract concept.  

Ronan's going to learn all 50 of the states this year.  He's also going to learn about the US borders, major water ways, and the continents.  This morning, he learned where Europe was.  
We did Geography lessons first today because I wanted to take a picture of the map.  I needed the photo after seeing something on my blog dashboard yesterday. 

The dashboard is a place where I can track a few things - how much traffic my blog gets, where my audience is, and how many hits each of my posts get.  It's also where Blogger can leave me a message.  Even though I've read the message Blogger left me some time ago, the alert is still there.  Unable to delete it or click it so it shows that it's been read, it's still sitting there all these months later.  After seeing the message again yesterday, I decided to add it to today's post.  

Thanks for visiting!
It's not the best image (sorry!), but it says that European Union laws requires me to give European Union visitors information about cookies used on the blog.  The law also says that I need to obtain consent (to collecting cookies) from my blog visitors.  

Blogger says that they added that information in a notice on the blog explaining this, but since I have not been able to log in from Europe (oh, how I wish I could pop over and visit!), I have not been able to view the message that is supposedly there.  

Here is hoping and praying that it is!  Now, back to studying Geography facts and then we break for snack time.  Maybe Ronan and I will have some cookies for snack today, the edible kind ;)

xo, Cat

Monday, September 19, 2016

Small Things

Good grief.  It's been months since I've written anything here!  I don't have much time today to share anything super exciting or profound, but I do have a little something to add to the blog.  

This photo.  
The photo is of a magnet that my daughter got for her birthday.  It contains a simple message but one that has spoken volumes to me since the day I read it.  

Soon after Fiona's birthday, our schedule was gearing up to be incredibly full.  Exactly that happened.  We went from not much going on all summer to school, sports and everything else in between.  Not one day goes by that we don't have something on the schedule.  I haven't felt calm, cool and collected as I had most of the summer.  Instead, I've been rush, rush, rushed feeling harried and a tad overstressed.  I love being busy and seeing the kids actively engaged in activities, but we're almost too busy.  Something has to give, but what? 

When I first read the message on that magnet, I immediately thought of Mother Teresa (the quote is attributed to her).  Growing up, I remember Mother Teresa to be such a simple and peaceful woman.  On the most stressful days, I yearn for the peace that I imagine Mother Teresa, now canonized as Saint Teresa of Kolkata, exuded.  I yearn for a peace that I imagine her simple yet great deeds brought to those she served.  Could I find that peace?  Could I find that peace and share it with those closest to me?  Lately, with how much we have going on, I didn't think so.  

Some days, especially lately, I feel like I've served until I can serve no more.  Those days are so hard to handle.  They are so hard to push through.  They fall on the same day that we have a thousand things to do or to get to.  They creep in on the same day that I see that my son is struggling, too.  



Aggressive behavior.  

All of that has increased for Ronan.  With how quickly our schedule changed, it has not been easy to be him.  It has not been easy for me either.  

Our schedule has been so very crazy.  The kids have been so incredibly busy.  Life is quickly zooming by, and I have not had time to tackle anything big.  I feel horrible that I also haven't been able to give my time and talents to others as I'd hoped.  I don't want to fall completely down in the dumps, so when I do feel myself getting discouraged or overwhelmed, I stop.  I breathe.  I remember that peace is out there.  I remind myself of that and reread that magnet one more time:  

Do small things with great love.  

I can do that.  

I know they won't last, but on those dark and dismal days that seem to take forever to end, I've been seeking that photo and saying that quote.  I find myself scrolling through my photo album to stop at the image of that little magnet.  I focus on the message.  It's what fuels my thoughts.  It's what drives my actions.  It's what fills me with faith.  It's also what gives me hope to keep on going.  

I'm focusing on small things now.  It's what I can do.  It's what I can handle.  It's all that I can give to others.   Small things lead to big things.  When I can get back to doing those again, I will.  But for now, I promise to remember to do small things with great love.  

xo, Cat