Monday, January 14, 2013

I Blinked and He Was Gone

Whenever I walk by or glance at my mailbox, I still feel nauseous eight years later. I remember the rock by the mail box post that he used to love to stand on because he loved the feeling of almost falling, of losing his balance. I removed the rock not only because it attracted him to that spot, but because it made me physically ill just looking at it. Last month was the eight year anniversary marking the day my son missed being hit by a lawn maintenance truck by mere inches. Patch and I were out in the fenced in back yard. He was a real monkey back then, even at two years old, and loved to climb. Patch has autism and one of the things he struggled with at two was personal safety. Many children with special needs do not have an appropriate sense of danger. I had to watch him like a hawk in the front yard, parking lots, and public play grounds. In my fenced in backyard however, I felt like he was safe. I was closing down my perennial garden for the fall and he was climbing on our swing set. I could hear him sing to himself and laugh at his antics as I cut down the stalks from my flowers. Then I heard a woman yelling her head off and the noise of breaks shrieking. I turned around and Patch was gone. Gone. I freaked and opened the picket fence gate and saw him there on the opposite side of our street picking flowers. There was a woman out of her car running toward him and a poor landscaper who had his hands in his face. I ran across the street and picked him up. The woman who got there first told me she saw him balancing on the rock and stopped because she thought it odd that a two year old would be out on the street by himself. She saved his life because she stopped her car. We live on bend of a winding Connecticut road, and the landscaper did not see my son jump off the rock and cross the street to pick the flowers. The woman in the car ran out of her car, stood in the middle of the bend and waved down the truck. She could have been killed or injured too. Turns out my monkey was not only good at climbing ropes and ladders, but picket fences. We immediately tore down our cute, but short, picket fence and put up a more difficult to climb six foot tall one. We installed alarms on our doors so every time a door or window opened there was a chime. Then I called the Police Department because I wanted to put up a sign similar to Blind or Deaf Child ones you have seen previously. Patch was essentially 'Danger Blind' and I thought this might be a good warning to those who took that curve in the road. I learned from the assistant police chief that signs like Deaf Child often lure child predators to that area. So that was out. However, it began an incredible discussion about safety and special needs children with our town's first responders. In the end, Patch's near miss turned out to be an amazing thing for our town. In the next installment, I will let you know how my discussion with our town's fire and police departments led to better awareness, training and safety for our special needs kids and adults. Originally published at

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