I talked about this on facebook, but I have longer thoughts, too.
Joseph and I go for walks after school most days, and sometimes on other days (like Sunday). Well, as I joke, they are more like "runs"; he will run whenever there are cars moving on the street, as if he's trying to keep up with them -- and a bit extra for things like buses or motorcycles or oddities. I usually jog as much as I'm willing, so it goes in bursts of speed-up and slow-down as the waves of traffic pass.
I also let him pick the route *most* of the time, although I may put my foot down on going home once we've been at it a while. My focus has been on teaching him street crossing, reminding him to look for cars, and to wait for lights. I sometimes make him go my chosen way, or make a stop, partly to train him for when I really need him to go with me in a particular direction (like, again, Sunday). But mostly he has his little routes; they almost all start almost always up the alley the same way, down the first street the same way. It varies afterwards, but I can make some pretty good guesses where we're going, and it loops back on itself; we sometimes go right past home, and sometimes come pretty close. He tends to stick to major streets for much of it, because more cars.
He's been, I think, also using it to get a mental map of the area and how it all links up. Some of the repetition is autistic routine, or bits he particularly enjoys (We often make extra repeats of ramps), and some is testing his map, especially when he unexpectedly varies his path.
I kind of enjoy the routine, even if I often come out of one tired and footsore. It's also pretty good exercise, trying to cooperate with a 4 year old's energy level.
I feel even more glad he mostly chooses the routes, and that this means I know his most likely choices.
This is what I posted on Facebook:Anyone who also has Colin on their news feed knows Joseph ran out of the house earlier today. He was found by a young woman who took his hand and tried to get him to lead her home. He led her instead on one of his walking routes (exactly the wrong way from home, though it would have looped back eventually.) Colin, at home, called the cops while one of the people I (out searching) asked flagged down a pair of paramedics on bicycles, who found her and then let m know she was bringing him my way (meanwhile the police Colin called also ended up intercepting her and brought her and Joseph to me and then me and Joseph safe home.)
We owe thanks to so many people; the woman who took his hand and looked for where he belonged and who, most of all, meant he was travelling safely and not running into traffic, the people who talked to me at River and Osborne who loaned me cell phones (my phone? Are you kidding? I left the house without putting on shoes. Granted, if such an awful thing happens again, I'm taking the phone if I can, but still screw the shoes.) and/or walked/biked the neighbourhood to search, the woman who flagged the paramedics while my panicked mind was still thinking, "but that's the wrong emergency services", the paramedics and police themselves. Even the one person I talked to who remembered a blond boy with a woman going by.
I'm still shaken, though.
It's so easy to second-guess everything.
This has happened now two and a half times for real, and a couple of other close calls. (The half is when he made his escape after leaving the car, not out of the house). The other two involved us being close behind, even in sight, so not quite the same as not being sure exactly how long, how far.
We have a latch on the door to the back hall but we know he figured out what to climb onto to reach it. Should we have moved that thing, so he at least needed to drag a chair over? We have a different fastener on the outside door we know he CAN get at, again with something to climb onto, but again slows him and causes trouble. We even have a windchime set so that opening the door will make it ring, and it's audible on both floors, though probably not in the bathroom with the fan or shower on.
I was upstairs in the shower. Well, except after I finished the shower I sat upstairs alone for a long time, just reading a book. And I mean half an hour or more. (Colin was downstairs, and could speak to his own reasons for not catching on; I will say that while they weren't any better than mine, they weren't worse, either.) I went downstairs, past Colin and into the kitchen, thinking we were overdue to deal with lunch; and saw the door. I don't remember what I said, but enough to get him up and moving, and then I was off, shoeless and purseless, down the alley as I was.
Colin was a bit more active than I make it sound; he made sure Alex was safe, checked Joseph's route the opposite way, and the playground, then sat down at home to call the police and mind Alex (and the phone). I found most of this out afterwards, when I borrowed the phones, or even after I got home.
Do we need to have a more orderly plan in place? More than just "Next time I bring my cell"? Colin did exactly the right thing. I was keeping it together in most ways until Joseph was safe (I had a really obvious increase in panic and stress symptoms once I was told he was found, and more once I had him, but I was aware even as I was managing to think out plans while I walked that I wasn't thinking entirely clearly.)
Had I come downstairs sooner, would I have seen Joseph while he was still in the house? He starts working on getting outside when he's bored with indoor stuff; I could have started an activity with him. We need to do more of that; more things that aren't default habits. Might I have at least arrived soon enough to nab him in the first block? Did I hear a chime and assume Colin was in control? I don't remember doing so, so probably not, but the other escape out of the house happened when I heard the chime but had thought Colin (who was working on renos) was doing work that involved going outside as well as into and out of the basement.
There's the things I have done lackadaisically, like teaching Joseph to say his name (Which he can do -- but the officer said he never got a peep out of him, and the only thing Joseph said to me in the police car on the way home was "octagon stop sign" when we reached an intersection.) I've talked about making him an "all about me" book to teach him rote answers to "what's your name?" and "where do you live?" but haven't made it.
I keep wondering if we should get him some jewellery that has his name and address, but teaching him to wear it, all the time, would be some doing; he doesn't like wristbands, and he's very good at figuring out fasteners (see again: everything we've done to our doors to slow him down)
I've also wondered about preemptively flyering the neighbourhood with his picture and home address and an explanation that he's a flight risk with poor verbal skills. The houses and apartments and condos, probably not; not only would it be a dauntingly huge undertaking, but it carries a lot of OTHER issues. But maybe the businesses, at least the ones that have a view out the window? I keep thinking this is a bad idea, but is it a worse idea than not doing it, if he vanishes again? And yet again, most of my samaritans were just people shopping or going about their day, although the woman who flagged the paramedics is one of the people who runs a street kiosk.
We're planning on building a fence around the yards this summer; that was part of the plan already.
The other bit I posted on facebook: And for a super-fun follow-up: we were at a party at the house of one of Colin's old friends this afternoon, in their back yard. We'd figured out how to keep him from opening the gate right away. Then he followed the other kids inside once ... and inside, went instead to the front door, opened it and was off down the street. In Fort Richmond, which he doesn't know and where we would have no idea where to look after 5 minutes. One of the other parents caught on and chased him down, so he was brought back quickly (he leaves doors open behind him), but we had to spend half of the rest of the party minding all possible exits. It's that fast.
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