A child gets lost. It is one of the greatest fears of every mom. It is the stuff of nightmares. We all wonder – what if my child and I get separated in an unfamiliar environment? How will I find him? Where will he go, what will he do? Who will he meet? We all have vivid imaginations which in that scenario, can run run away to the unlikely possibilities without much provokation.
When a child cannot communicate, when a child has no speech and language, the anxiety is magnified tenfold.
N was 4 years old when we went to Marineland. We had a great day, we enjoyed the shows, the marine life, the rides. We had a picnic dinner and then at around 7:00pm we proceeded to the deer park to feed the deer. It was the grande finale to our day! We had brought stale cereal and bread especially just for this purpose.
The deer park at Marineland is quite a large field, lined by trees at one end and superimposed by a circular pathway. There are probably several hundred animals living in the compound. When we opened up our bags of treats, initially we saw only maybe 10 or 15 deer, but withing minutes we were completely surrounded! Our bags of corn pops, our loaves of bread, AND our popcorn were consumed withing 5 minutes by the writhing mass of hungry deer. As the last bits were voraciously gobbled by the most aggressive creatures, I looked around for N. He was nowhere to be seen. I was not surprised because this close encouter feeding frenzy would not appeal to him at all. We began to search the immediate area for N but he was nowhere to be found.
After an extensive search of the vicinity, my friend went to the nearby washrooms to see if he had gone there. He was not there. I sent N’s siblings out into the deer compound in search of him. I concentrated on asking strangers in the area if they had seen a blond child mumbling nonsense. Nobody recalled seeing a child of that description. After about 1/2 hour, panic had set in. The deer park was large, the Marineland park as a whole was much larger. The sun was setting in the western sky and N was nowhere to be found. Soon the park would close.
While everybody else searched the most likely areas that N would be attracted to, I decided to explore the unlikely areas, mom’s instinct. I decided to visit the remote sections of the deer compound. The shadows of twilight had stretched their tired arms across much of the field in the most remote part of the deer area. At the very back of the compound, a large herd had settled for the night, lying peacefully on the grass, together with each other. As I observed them, I noticed that, in the middle of the herd, there was a blond head.
For a long time I stood on the pathway, feeling a mixture of relief and wonder. My autistic kid had been accepted by the herd of deer as a welcome visitor. Even more amazing was his willingness to be part of that herd of deer. He sat there peacefully, they sat there peacefully with him, as though he belonged, as though nothing was wrong in the world. I also noted with less joy that he was eating the deer droppings. When I called to him, he came, emerging from the pack almost reluctantly, but with apparent acceptance that he did not belong with the deer, it was time to go.
A fortunate end to a potential nightmare.