May 19, 2013


Every few days I walk the perimeter of our backyard. It is a nice yard, not too big. It is a simple rectangle with a patio and a lawn. I can see the whole yard from the patio, not typically the kind of property that would need someone to walk its perimeter.

But I do. I walk the perimeter checking the fence. I make sure every board is in place, that no new gaps have appeared since the last time I checked, just a few days prior.

Because one time, one of those boards was loose. Moe walked by, and it must have tipped over. He walked right through it into the neighbor's yard.

He wasn't scared. He wasn't escaping anything. He was just curious, saw an opening and walked through.

I didn't see him go through the fence. I was there in the yard with him. He was swinging, and I looked away. Maybe there was a bird. Maybe I stooped to pick a weed out of a crack in the patio or swat away a bee. When I looked back up the swing was going, empty, like a scene from a stranger danger PSA.

"Moe?" I called, peering into the playhouse, the one spot he can hide in our yard. He wasn't there.

I don't know what made me check the fence. But I saw the hole. I rushed through, thankful that I was able to fit. Moe was right there. I grabbed him (and our dog who had of course followed us through), my heart pounding, and ran into the house. Locking the door safely behind me.

I was lucky. Moe was there. He was right there.

Moe was lost once other time, at school. They messed up, two aides each thinking the other had him. He popped into an open classroom. He could have been anywhere, including the creek they walked to every Friday afternoon.

Again, were were lucky.

Moe has been lost twice. Twice found. But I have nightmares about losing him. Shouting his name as he walks away. Begging people to grab him while no one listens.

We recently trimmed some branches from our grapefruit tree. Moe has learned to climb the tree, and as the branches grew closer to the neighbor's fence, I could see him peering over the top. It wouldn't be long before he decided to leap right over.

We are diligent. We are paranoid. And yet, we are human. Just the other day, Moe and I were in the yard. The dog started scratching at the neighbor's dog through the fence. I rushed over to stop her, knowing that the scratching could compromise the fence in that spot. When I looked up, I didn't see Moe. He was fine, just in the opposite corner of the yard.

This week, we lost several beautiful children (in unrelated incidences) who wandered from safe places and drowned. My heart breaks for them, for their families and caregivers. I will not dwell on the people who have chosen judgement and blame. I do not know what happened, but I do know how it could happen. How it has happened. To me. To Moe. Unless you've lived it, you do not know.

We are diligent. But we have also been very lucky.



  1. An eight-yr old girl drowned after the yard gate was accidentally left open not far from here where I live. She had autism and didn't communicate or respond when called. It was tragic and so very very sad. A half second and they can disappear-it's unbelievable how quick they are.

  2. Ummm, the parents of the latest little girl that wandered off... left her (with a mental age of 2, according to news reports) in their yard with the gate open, "supervised" by her 8 yr old brother.

    It's illegal in my state (ny) to leave a 2 yr old unsupervised, and an 8 yr old (no matter how mature) isn't legally allowed to babysit a 2 yr old. It's straight up neglect!

    That darling girl? The one who drowned? Her parents weren't all THAT responsible.

    1. It is clear that you have missed the point entirely. This post is not about blame. I do not know what happened in that yard, but I do know that this could have been any of our children. Did you know that "a study released in Pediatrics showed that 49% of children with autism like Mikaela are prone to wandering, a rate four times higher than their unaffected siblings?" (

      I do not know anything about you, as you have chosen to remain anonymous. But I can only guess that you do not have a child who is prone to wandering, who, when out of the house, needs to have a hand on them 100% of the time, who has their entire house on lockdown in a constant battle to keep a child safe, who has, frankly any clue what parenting a child like this - like my son - is like. It speaks volumes of your character that you have chosen this opportunity to judge parents who are grieving.

    2. ummmm.. so you're saying that they DESERVED this? because that's pretty fucked up. Hows about showing a little compassion instead and realizing the POINT of this post is to bring awareness to a serious problem.

      unless you like sittin up there on that judgey high horse. I suppose the view is nice.

      i for one will choose compassion ANY DAY, and remember that a little girl DIED instead of trying to make myself feel superior.

    3. WOW, the point of this article was to highlight how easy it is for a child with Autism to elope, not to pass blame. I'll know where to find you, in that glass house up on the hill.

    4. How interesting that you hide behind an Anonymous persona as you blast and attack parents that have just lost their child?Coward. What makes you qualified to even comment on someone's parenting.Judging from your comments, I highly doubt you have walked a mile in their shoes to even warrant that kind of response. Until then, go back to hole you came from.

  3. Your story of Moe at school began to spark my memory. Bug wandered at school too - they didn't know where he was. He wandered to his sister's class because he wanted to be with her. Her door looked like all the others. He was hiding in the wrong class. How could this be we wonder but it is...thank you for sharing.

  4. They escape so quickly, the wanderers. It's extraordinary how fast they're gone, and how far they can travel.

  5. I am glad to know I am not alone. It is my number one fear for my son. We live on a river and I am terrified of him walking out of our house. I of course have every childproof thing you can get and I never let him even in the fenced area without me watching, but accidents still happen. I let my gaurd down today and let him climb out of the car by himself and he darted into the road in the 2 seconds it took me to close the van door.

  6. Lindsay, my heart reaches across the miles to touch yours and calm what must have been a very high rate until you got him to safety. They are So. Very. Fast. The second to close the door must have felt like a half a minute in his little teeny time frames-unbelievable. I am so glad that your son is safe and yes, the river would scare me too. We lived offshore while Iris was 1-7 years old and the vigilance required was very tight. Best to you, Lindsay.

  7. I work at a public school that serves children with autism. The school district makes it almost impossible for us to get a one-on-one aide, even if the child is at serious risk of wandering away. One very determined teen got away twice this year (one time hiding UP A TREE) before the district finally approved his aide. Special education funding is a sad state of affairs.


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