I didn't watch for two minutes.
Ben was happily riding his trike in our front yard. It's fenced in, so I thought he was safe. I filled a batch of ice trays and knelt down to put them carefully in the freezer. I couldn't see out the front window for about two minutes.
When I stood up, I saw right away that the front gate was open, and Ben was nowhere in sight. My adrenal gland clenched into a fist and I ran out the front door on red alert.
I did a 360 and didn't see him. I loped down the street as fast as I could go - kid on trike always prefers to go downhill. I could see a pretty far piece and there was no Ben in sight.
After a block or so, a woman on a bike hollered (politely) from across the street: "Are you looking for someone?"
Me, panicky: "Yes! A boy on a trike?!"
Her, helpful and neighborly: "I haven't seen him."
I ran for another couple of blocks, checking down side streets, before I decided I'd be better off going back for my car. The possible options for how he might have gone were expanding with every heartbeat.
I turned and huffed back up the hill. After only a block or so, the aforementioned woman-on-a-bike shouted to me, "Your son is in your driveway, and my daughter is with him!"
Immediately relieved, I waved and chugged on up the hill. Looking ahead, I could see a young lady on a bike, standing guard with a very determined stance. Nobody was getting past her.
My adrenal system shut down like a 50 year old sprinkler system...thunk. Asthma kicked in, and breathing got difficult. I gave the girl a husky-voiced thanks, picked up Ben, and stalked inside our house, locking the inside-keyed deadbolt before beginning the search for an inhaler.
After a short, but motivated hunt, I found one and breathing got easier. Ben was now swinging on the swing set in our backyard. The mother and daughter who had helped us were not in sight. I'd missed my chance to really thank them and let them know how much their help meant.
Ben isn't alone in his tendency to wander. Almost half of kids with autism are prone to wandering. We were lucky this time, as we have been with previous incidents.
We've taken a number of steps to prevent wandering in our own family, but we need to do more and we will.
Tomorrow, I'm meeting with our Utah senators to encourage them to support Avonte's law. It seems to me to be a common sense way to combat wandering. Avonte's story is a tragic one, but this law would help prevent it from being repeated.
To learn more about wandering, visit AWAARE.