I am sitting at my desk going over the day's attendance when I happen to glance out the window. There walking past is my Jessica. She looks determined but alone. I hesitate, surely her aide is with her but in a second I realize there is no one with her. My heart in my throat, I jump up from my chair and run out the front door to catch up with her as she passes by. She sees me and stops, smiles. I ask her where does she think she is going? I don't expect an answer, she smiles again and takes my hand. I lead her through the daycare into the school to her classroom door. There I see a quiet classroom except for the voice of a fellow student reading aloud from a book. The teacher stands at the head of the classroom, head down following along in her book which she is holding. As I enter, I call her name and she looks up. Her eyes go from me to Jess and a look of horror comes over her face. I explain that Jess had gone through the front doors of the school which had been open because of the nice day and I had caught up with her outside the daycare door. I find out that her aide had been asked to make copies of some materials that would be used by the class later in the day and the teacher had no idea that Jess would take the opportunity to explore.
Jessica was not new to this school. This would be her last year there, however. She was in the 8th grade now and would be moving on to high school in the next year.
I don't know what would have become of Jess if I had not been sitting in my office. What streets she would have crossed, what dangers she would have encountered. Perhaps I should have followed to see where she may have headed. I was too shocked at the time to do anything but what I did.
This past weekend I heard a similar story from a mom of a 14 year old boy who has autism and it reminded me of mine. I spoke to her afterward and we talked about how our children needed supervision at all times. How as mothers we worry that others just don't understand the scope of what can happen when you let your guard down.