Update: Found safe! Click here.
By Kim Stagliano
This one hits close to home. Imagine the plight of a girl who may or not be able to speak well, scream "no," or defend herself in a meaningful way.
From Minnesota today: A teenage girl who suffers from autism wandered away from her St. Paul home early Wednesday and police today are asking for the public's help in finding her. Read more HERE.
Last October we took our first family vacation in.... in...., OK, ever. I mean a "get on a plane, fly somewhere where you have no family, check into a hotel" kind of vacation. Not the "Mom, we'll be there in July" sort. We had two rooms, connected in the middle. Mia wandered into the hallway and off she went. I didn't realize it for about 5 minutes. In that time, she had gone far, far away. THIS is where she wandered off.
I grabbed my emergency sheet, a piece of paper with each girls' photo and stats, and bolted down the elevator, tackling the security detail in the lobby. "She's lost! She has autism!" I was practically hyperventilating. Mia is NOT my runner. I call her my "indoor cat." Mellow. And she was gone. Mia is 13, tall, dark curling hair, and looks utterly typical. No one would give her a second look strolling the grounds, except every 13, 14 and 15 year old boy there.
Security went into action. I went straight to the pool, which was the size Rhode Island, maybe Delaware. To my eyes it looked like the pits of hell. "Mia! Mia!" I cried, willing myself not to sob. (I didn't listen.) I told everyone I passed, "My daughter has autism. She looks like this (I pointed to myself) and is in a blue t-shirt."
When I went back into the lobby, having aged a fifteen three years in twenty minutes, I saw a woman escorting Mia into the front desk area. THANK GOD! Mia had gone for a spin in the huge, glass elevators in the lobby, up 20+ floors. And in that elevator was a Grandma, who has an autistic grandson and knew the signs right away. That guardian angel from Missouri brought Mia safely to me. I'll never forget her. Carol Taylor.
Let's hope there's a Carol Taylor for a girl in St. Paul named Mari Zambrano.
Kim Stagliano is Managing Editor for Age of Autism.