Crocodile Dundee went on a walk-a-bouts, in New York, all the time. He also carried a knife that could cut through steel, wrestled crocodiles, and was a fictitious character. The first time my son, Chris, went on a walk-a-bout, he was five years old. Crocodile Dundee, Chris was not. The irony of the situation was, Chris, went in the middle of the night but was highly afraid of the dark. I don't believe there is a worst fear than hearing a knock at the door, in the middle of the night. My heart dropped into my feet, paralyzing everything in my body.
I had put Chris to bed, like any other night. My boyfriend was in the bathroom, tending to his nightly ritual of toilet, bath, and teeth. Sitting in the dark, looking up at nothing, I began to hear the heavy breathing of the children. Once, that happened, I knew snoring was coming next. Feeling relaxed, I began to fall asleep. I couldn't tell you how long I was asleep for, however; I can tell you, the banging on the door shot me out of bed like a cannon ball.
I grasped the wall because my feet felt heavy. Immediately, I felt like throwing up, not even knowing why. Looking around the pitch -black room, nothing out of place stood out. I still heard snoring, but the water in the bathroom was no longer running. I called out to my boyfriend as I began towards the front door. You know the feeling when you're not quite awake, but pull yourself together as if you just had a pot of coffee? Adjusting clothing, wiping the drool stains, and slapping my face, I opened the door.
Feeling as if I was in a nightmare doesn't describe what I saw before me. My five year old, in his pull-up with a blanket wrapped around him stood there, with my neighbor behind him. "I found something that I believe belongs to you", he said. I was shaking my head and words wouldn't escape my lips. I was in shock. I didn't know if I should be angry, sad, scared, or what. I actually felt all those feelings and more. Thank goodness my boyfriend came out because he talked for me.
Come to find out, my son was on a walk-a-bout. Not just any walk-a-bout, either. He was determined to get to his uncle's house! During this time, Chris was also picking up trash along the way. Yes, you read correctly. Picking up trash! See, my boyfriend has this habit of helping the environment. He will pick up trash or recyclables and find their proper place. So, I suppose, my son was on a mission to save earth on his way to his uncle's house.
After thanking my neighbor for having saving my son and hugging Chris so tight, my nerves began to calm a little. I stayed up all night trying to figure out the answers to the: why, how, and what questions that swirled in my brain. Why did he leave? How did he get past everyone? How come he was not afraid of walking by himself? How was a boy, who has me turn on all lights before he walks into a room, not afraid of the dark outside? I pondered all this while camping out in front of the door. I may have fallen asleep prior to his walk-a-bout, but did not get sleep afterwards.
Of course, everyone woke up bright-eyed and busy-tailed, and here I was straining to stay awake. Coffee was my best friend that entire day! I went to the store, bought chain locks and alarms. Asking Chris what provoked him to partake in a walk-a-bout, was like talking to a brick wall. He kept saying, "Want to see uncle". A light bulb finally went off. Chris is like a train that cannot be derailed. His focus was to see his uncle. Nothing was going to stop him. Not the dark, being by himself, leaving his security, or even being chased by my neighbor and his partying friends.
Even though the house was like Fort Knox after all this, worry still penetrated my brain from time to time. Today, Chris asks to leave and since that night, never went on a walk-a-bout again! I haven't had chain locks or alarms on my doors since he was seven years old. Why? He showed me that would never happen again. I truly believe that the way my heart was in my feet, he understood the pang of, "I shouldn't be doing this", afterwards.
Unfortunately, this is the case with our special children. They act first, then sometimes understand later. For some, the later part might be too late. For those who have felt the impact of our children's walk-a-bout, I truly feel for you. For others who haven't yet, please continue to read. You may feel as if, "This will never happen me". You may even say, "I never let my child out of my sight, so I don't need to worry". I don't mean to scare, but only educate. The reality is, it can happen, regardless of what you believe. I watched my son all the time. I believed him to be asleep, which allowed me to doze off.
Today, there are more technology tools for parents with special need children. At the time of my son's walk-a-bout, there were none. I would suggest, for newbie parents of a special need child, taking heed on the technology out there. Use a tracking device, put a chain and alarm on the front door, and be one step ahead of your children at all times. Your children are watching you as you do them.
Having raised another child previous, I never would have dreamed my son would leave in the middle of the night. He had watched me, watching him for years. He knew my pattern as I had observed his. You may not want to believe this, but years later, I realized something. My boyfriend, now fiance, was in the bathroom the entire time. He heard the front door open, but thought nothing of it, because he heard it open and close again. This meant, Chris opened/closed the door and waited. Since no one came, he did it again, figuring the coast was clear. My boyfriend thought it was me getting something from my car. Chris had waited for me to fall asleep. He has a pervasive developmental delay, but is no dummy. His focus was all he needed to do what he wanted.
Chris loves the movie, Jurassic Park. Do you know what his favorite dinosaur is? Blue, the Velociraptor. As a writer, I know the best way to write a book is for other's to relate to the character. Why does Chris relate to that dinosaur? No, he doesn't have talons that can shred, like Dundee's knife. He doesn't run very fast, either. Chris related because Jurassic Park deemed these animals intelligent. I believe the guy who fed these dinosaurs, in the 1st movie, said, "They are extremely smart. They watch everything and find the faults in things".
Chris watched my pattern as I had done his. Autistic children seem to have a math inside their heads, before understanding to count. Patterns are what they enjoy. Why wouldn't they watch your pattern as a parent? I'm here to tell you, that without a doubt, they are watching. They are focusing on your every move and weakness. One day, they could possibly calculate your next move to ensure their focus is played out. I never want anyone to feel how I did, the night my son went on a walk-a-bout.
This is why, I have decided my second book in the series, "What's This Thing Called Safety", will be free to the first ten people who request it. I truly believe this story will reach the hearts of our special children. This will aid them in understanding the importance of safety. Below, I have given a sneak-peak at the illustrations not finalized) and an insert from the book. You be the judge and see if this book will help your child.
I really don't understand this at all. My mom keeps telling me things every time I fall. "Wear your helmet, watch where you walk, and try not to scrape your knees on that rock!"
I keep hearing these words, "safety first". It's usually when I'm at my worst. I don't understand what it means. Mommy keeps telling me to work as a team. Listen to her direction and follow her lead.