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The blog Autism In A Word turns me into a huge puddle. Every one of her posts that I have stumbled upon leaves me in tears. The other day I read her post “Safer” (click to read, but be sure to grab some tissues) where she describes an incident when her daughter, Rhema, who is Bailey’s age but is more profoundly affected by autism, and is also nonverbal with a seizure and feeding disorder, disappeared as they were unloading from church. Apparently this is an ongoing and very troubling problem she has dealt with on many occasions. By the grace of God, Rhema has been returned safely to her arms each time.

It struck me how similar that behavior is in Bailey… the wandering and having no sense of danger. Bailey will also bolt at lightening speed when she is upset. On more than one occasion I’ve had to run after her in a department store, searching through and under racks of clothes to find where she may be hiding while nursing her anger or frustration. We can be browsing around peacefully and a minor collision between her and a sign can send her into a frenzy and she’ll run for the hills. I have an extremely difficult time keeping her with me when we go anywhere in public. Something will catch her attention and she will take off with no warning. No “hey mama, can we go look at that?”. Just swoosh, and she’s gone. Most of the time getting her to hold my hand is like a wrestling match with a monkey. Even when crossing the street, if something peaks her interest in the road she will snatch away from me to go back to look, paying no mind to the potential dangers around her. Most of our outings I spend using my acrobatic eyes… the left is on Bailey and the right is on whatever it is I’m looking for. Bailey’s cousin, Cowboy, said on more than one occasion during my family’s visit that Bailey needs a leash. I believe he’s on to something. She often wandered ahead or lagged behind the group, in her own little world. And just thinking back to her pulling from me to lean way too close to the incoming train to feel the rush of wind makes my stomach flip-flop.

I’ve stepped back before and watched her, keeping my distance, to see just how far Bailey would go on without me near her. It terrifies me…. how she will get lost in her head, start humming to herself, and simply wander off without a care in the world. She doesn’t watch where she is going so the possibility of stepping into the path of a moving car is a very real danger. She knows to look both ways when crossing but when she’s right there in the moment she just doesn’t. And she would make it simple for a person with evil intentions to take her. So I’m always right there, hovering.

I dread the day Bailey pleads for more independence. She is starting to notice that I am a lot more visible than the other mothers. I am trying to balance her need to grow with her emotional and social challenges. I try to keep a safe distance and still give her room to breathe. When I’m not there will she be able to snap out of her head long enough to pay attention to the world around her?

Will she look out for moving cars?

Will she bolt when something upsets her, oblivious to what is going on around her and what danger that may put her in?

Will she wander to an isolated place and disappear forever?

I’ve had the conversations with her. But will she be able to recall my words when it’s important? Right now she doesn’t feel the danger that is out there but I do. The worry eats away at my heart.

We all have to let go of our children at some point. We all have to trust that we’ve instilled in them the survival skills they need to make it from one day to the next. And most of them get it. But what about those that don’t? What about the kids on the very high functioning end of the autism spectrum who absolutely lose themselves to their thoughts, to what holds the most importance to them in that moment, to what is at the end of the tunnel they are looking into? What about the ones who throw every speck of caution to the wind… and give no respect to plain ol’ physical danger. That healthy respect that danger so rightfully deserves. This goes way beyond worrying that she may follow the wrong crowd.

Again, I am left with only one option. After all the warnings and cautionary tales, I can only put my trust in God. Without it I would end up in a straight jacket. With a stomach ulcer. And probably bald patches on my head. I already bite my nails down to nubs because of worry. I already have a crappy diet because of worry. I already lose sleep because of worry. I dread next year, and the year after, because of worry.

So I turn to one of my absolute favorite Bible verses:

The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil 4:5-7)

And to keep the worrisome thoughts away I will try to think about these things…

Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–anything {that} is excellent or praiseworthy… (Phil 4:8)

So the God of peace will be with me.