The next moments are a blur. It was a vast place crowded with people, and the sun was starting to set. Being most of it was a field where we just picked grapes I knew it would soon be pitch black. I felt all the blood rush out of my face, I literally thought I was going to faint.
It’s probably the worst nightmare for anyone who has a child that has a communication impairment. To become separated or lost in a crowd knowing they have no way of telling anyone who they are. Imagine not being able to even say your first name. Being too young to write it out.
Fortunately unlike our son who was diagnosed with ADHD when he was younger and once created a Code Adam lockdown when he ran off in a store, our apraxic child was good about staying with us.
Family Fun Day Turns Into A Nightmare
One day we went with some neighbors and their children to a yearly grape harvesting festival at a local winery. We spent the day picking grapes and that evening they had bands, food, and lots of fun. Even though it was at a winery it was a family event, with lots of children. Nobody knows how Tanner got separated as I typically watch my kids like a hawk, which is habit when you have an ADHD son that scoots off within moments. But there were four adults watching four children so you’d think we were all good.
Perhaps it was knowing my little son Tanner was not the one that typically would run off, or perhaps it was the crowds and his sensory processing disorder, or us being distracted by the music, but I suddenly noticed I didn’t see Tanner.
Reality Is Nothing Like The Movie Home Alone
At first it’s a question, “Where’s Tanner?” you ask while you are still searching, but not yet frantic. In those first moments I’m still thinking (hoping) he’s hidden behind someone and I’m going to hear, “He’s right here.” The next few moments is everyone else asking “Where’s Tanner?” And then his name “Tanner” being yelled in various ways, “Tanner?” “Tanner!” “TANNER!”
The next moments are a blur. It was a vast place crowded with people, and the sun was starting to set. Being most of it was a field where we just picked grapes I knew it would soon be pitch black. I felt all the blood rush out of my face, I literally thought I was going to faint while so many scenarios why he could be missing are going through my mind.
Even though we all were completely panicked we all acted quickly as a group and got a search party going with the organizers of the event. Knowing how code Adam works…just not how it works at a huge outdoor festival, I asked them if they could stop any car from leaving as I was afraid someone kidnapped Tanner.
They didn’t stop the cars from leaving, but they did agree to search each car leaving with a flashlight. Each one that pulled away I got more upset, what if my son was in that car. When I saw the first cars leaving, I frantically yelled, “What about the trunks?” But we didn’t have time to just watch cars leaving, we had to search for Tanner through a huge crowd and a huge field.
Groups of people from the event found out what was going on and began to help us search for my little nonverbal (at that time) “cherub boy” Cherab Boy was Tanner’s nickname at the time because that is what everyone said he looked like.
FOUND! Thank Goodness!
About 15 minutes later a stranger found Tanner hiding behind the vats inside one of the buildings. Nobody knows why he went off or how he got to where he was. We still don’t know. The great news was we found him and I don’t need twice to learn a lesson. The feeling of losing your child even for a few moments is more horrifying,, but knowing they can’t communicate is worse than you can imagine.
This is why I wrote about this in my book The Late Talker, and started this page which shares numerous ID tags and bracelets as well as GPS trackers. You don’t know how much you wish you had a GPS tracker on your child until, until you need it. I hope you never need one, but please be smarter than I was at that time and be prepared.
Tips To Keep Your Child Safe
While most parents are teaching their child their phone number (with area code) -at the same age we struggle with them learning how to just say their first name. It’s security to have some type of ID system in place that they know how to show, You can be creative and it doesn’t have to be expensive. In addition today there are so many GPS type trackers.
I always taught my kids to find a policeman, but how often is there a policeman standing around? So if they can’t find a police officer to look for a “mommy with a stroller and kids” It’s typically not difficult to find a mommy with the stroller at most places you would bring your own child to, and I heard one of the safest type of people to send our kids to in this situation.
From My book The Late Talker
“What about when you are with your nonverbal child at the park, the shopping mall, or on vacation far from home? What if he gets lost? How is he going to tell people who he is and where he’s from? Work out some kind of identification system. The simplest way of all is to take a business card or a card that’s the same size. Write on it something like, “I am still learning to talk, but I understand you. Please call my mom and dad for me. They are here with me and I lost them. My mom’s cell phone number is: ___. Thanks.” Place the card in a plastic zip lock bag and put it inside one of his socks. Tell him that if he gets lost he should find a policeman or a mommy with a stroller, show them the card and have them call you.
One mother’s creative and inexpensive approach was to go to her local pet store where they have an automatic tag maker and a variety of different shaped tags. She chose a small gold circle about two inches in diameter with enough room for three lines of type. The tag comes with a little `O’ ring that would normally be attached to a pet’s collar. This mother chose to attach it to her son’s shoelace—near the toes. In those three lines of type, why not say,
LEARNING TO TALK
Able to Understand
The police and other authorities suggest that you don’t add your child’s name because it is better not to give his name to strangers who might have evil intent. “Learning to talk” offers a more positive presentation of the child’s speech challenge and is typically more accurate than saying “non-verbal.” The expression “Able to Understand” hopefully prevents people from talking in front of the child as if he isn’t there, or mistakenly believing him to be deaf or mentally retarded. There are other, more `sophisticated’ methods including scopes, (miniature microscopes that can hold valuable information), and bracelets. For more details see the Resources section at the end of the book. Whatever your frustrations, whatever your fears, you’re not the first to experience them. You are not alone. Fortunately, other pioneering parents have banded together to help each other—and to help you.”