Losing Adam

Filed Under (Activism, Wandering) by Estee on 14-05-2011

I’m going to write this raw and unedited.

Have you ever been so scared that you literally wet yourself? I did today. I lost Adam.

I took him to Sportball. It takes place in a church — they don’t lock the doors. All the kids are special needs. The gym is in the basement. I usually go and his instructor has responsibility for a bunch of kids. We’ve not really had difficulty like this before, but I could see it coming. I ordered the shoe tags, a GPS, but they haven’t arrived yet. Adam’s father reported that Adam tried to bolt last weekend.

So I turned to Adam’s instructor to address the issue. In just one second (no exaggeration), Adam was gone. I knew I had to move quickly because Adam is so fast, but they tried to reassure me he was ok, so I thought they moved a little slowly. I ran around the entire church — full of rooms, nooks and crannies. The front doors to the outside were locked. But there were more doors. An alarm went off. I ran outside screaming for Adam, I ran back in to look in between pews. He was gone.

Someone called 911. I peed my pants, running and running, hoping my desperate voice would trigger his tiny “here I am,” voice, but nothing. One more run back into the main sanctuary, and there he was under the cross, peering behind the curtain, on the altar.

I grabbed him and couldn’t stop crying…sorry it’s hard for me to write because I’m starting to cry again. Adults came in to say that they saw him running outside the church. He could have run out to a very busy street alongside the church. He could have been really hurt. No one stopped him. No one thought of it. Even those who knew him. I guess people thought we must have been nearby.

I held him so tight when I found him on the altar. I’ve called my team and my parents because I need support right now.

Adam’s impulse to explore, especially go through every door, has become insatiable. I do have extra inside locks on every door of my house, and lucky too because I can see he’s trying to unlock the regular ones. I’ve managed to keep us safe and myself sane in my home, but now I see I have to deal with this aggressively and he cannot be left unattended. I’d also wish to suggest for programs for special needs kids (or maybe all kids) that the doors be locked so kids can’t just disappear this easily. It seems to be a huge oversight and a lack of accommodation.

I’m so glad I have him because after five minutes of searching and calling out frantically, I thought I was going to be one of those parents you hear about on the news. I don’t want to come that close ever again. Not only will he always have a shadow with him now, there will be more aggressive teaching about safety and more positive reinforcement for staying and asking for permission to explore. I also implemented intuitively (and later read) that it’s really important to take your kids on the same routes all the time. They will usually want the same routes and can either be found or will find their way home. As Adam ran outside, he managed to find an open door back into the church.

It was Adam who found his way back. I found my way back to him.


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About Me


I’m a PhD candidate at York University, Critical Disability Studies, with a multi-disciplinary background in the arts as a curator and writer. I am the Founder of The Autism Acceptance Project (www.taaproject.com), and an enamoured mother of my only son who lives with the autism label. I like to write about our journey, critical issues regarding autism in the area of human rights, law, and social justice, as well as reflexive practices in (auto)ethnographic writing about autism.