It has not happened, in years, but it did again today. I lost N at the Superstore. I was selecting a flavour of ice cream in the freezer aisle, and I did not notice that he had wandered off. My attention was diverted for less than a minute. But that was long enough for serious trouble to arise.
I abandoned my cart and headed in the direction where he had been only moments before. At the end of the aisle, where the row of cash registers was – there was no sign of N. I checked the aisles to the left and right of the freezer aisle. No sign of N. I checked the other end of the freezer aisle, which I call the meat row, left and right. No sign of N.
OK – he cannot be far. Where would he go? My instinct was the produce department where the food is unwrapped and easily accessible. So I walked down the meat row to the fruits and vegetables section. I stood there for at least a minute, maybe longer, but there was no sign of N.
I walked down the row of cash registers, checking each aisle. OMG N had vanished! It had been about 5 minutes that I had been looking and I was starting to panic. My greatest fear is that he leaves the store, wanders out into the parking lot into the path of stressed store patrons jockeying mercilessly for a parking spot
This had never happened before, where I could not find him. I asked two store employees if they had seen a boy about my size in a red jacket, with a black hat and boots. One of the young men had noticed him by the milk and juice, maybe 5 minutes ago. He asked me if I required assistance to find him and I said, “yes”. I went with him to meet one of the front line managers of the store. I told her that I had lost my non-verbal autistic kid, age 12, and I gave her a general description of him. She said to me “I am going to call a CODE ADAM, this will alert all store employees to be on the lookout for your son and watch the doors”. The call went out moments later on the PA system. I had heard that term before, CODE ADAM, but I did not know what it meant.
Today I learned a few things. Not just the meaning of CODE ADAM, I also learned that there is a network of employees in the store that communicate with each other via hand-held device. There were instantly a dozen employees looking for N, and within minutes he was found, in the towel department! I was stunned!! HUH? The TOWEL department!! There isn’t even anything to eat there. The employee who accompanied me took me to the towel department and enroute was updated of his location in aisle 12, the freezer department where I originally lost him. We headed there and found him, holding the hand of an employee, walking toward the front of the store.
I gave him my very best “cross” face but I could see that he did not understand what was happening. He did not know he was lost. His face was slightly red, which told me that he knew he had done something wrong but was not sure what. I thanked the employees. I told him, “stay with mommy” which is a phrase he knows (but clearly may not obey). But I was too tired to shop any more, and so we went to the checkout.
I got about half of my grocery list accomplished, luckily enough to prepare a supper for the family. Another thing I learned – I realized that the store is too crowded on Saturday for N. I believe N went to the towel department to escape the overstimulation. Normally he likes to go to the grocery store. Normally he follows me around.
I sense a growing desire for independence, without understanding, in him. Tonight I am simply glad to be home and have him home and we are all safe.