The Mystery of the Wandering Kid

posted Friday September 25th, 2009

I can’t sleep.

Yesterday morning was pretty typical — we scurried to get ready, scurried out the door, scurried out of the car into backpacks and lunch boxes and over the crosswalk to school.

When Sophie, Annabelle and I arrived, it was the typical rush of teachers opening doors in the carpool lane (it always reminds me so much of a valet service) and kids flowing onto the playground.

We all stopped to say hello to Annabelle’s teacher, who gave us her usual big, happy greeting. Sophie said to her, “I come to your classroom!”

At first I didn’t give that much thought, standing there, because Sophie’s been saying that since the first day of school and we’ve always laughed about it. She doesn’t have easy access to Annabelle’s classroom. It’s on another floor, a gigantic (for Sophie) staircase away.

But something compelled me to look up from Sophie’s face to the teacher’s.

“Um, Sophie hasn’t actually shown up in your classroom, has she?”

“Why, yes!” the teacher responded cheerily. “Just yesterday!”

The craze of arriving kids continued through this discussion, so I couldn’t get much out of her, except that Sophie had shown up and a friend of Annabelle’s had escorted her back down the stairs to class.

When the bell rang, and Miss Y appeared to usher in her line, I broke the Cardinal rule. I brought up a Big Subject in the before-school rush.

“Hey, did you hear that Sophie showed up in Annabelle’s teacher’s room yesterday?” I asked, trying to sound casual.

“Noooooooooo,” she replied, clearly replaying the past day in her head even as she grabbed for hands and secured packs on backs.

She stopped and looked at me.


By day’s end, when we corresponded on email, she had asked for but not received details of the journey. There was speculation that this might have taken place during a therapy session or maybe music, since Miss Y never knew it happened.

I suppose it was a good week for this. In a couple hours, I’ll drive over to school for that one-month meeting of Sophie’s IEP team, which is finally to take place. And I’ll bring this up.

But first I’m going to let them all go around the room and talk about how incredibly well Sophie is doing, how this is the best possible setting for her, how her academics and socialization are through the roof (even if they really aren’t — I notice how eager people are to tell me how well Sophie is doing, and how eager I am to accept that news; events like yesterday’s are a wake-up call from the complacency that sets in) and when they’re done, I’ll pipe up.

And maybe, just maybe, if she’s at this meeting, the principal won’t turn to me, wince, and say what she said last year at this meeting, when I asked if we could write a provision into her IEP to have someone walk Sophie from the cafeteria to the playground at lunch each day.

You  know, if Sophie needs to be treated like someone other than a typical kid, the principal said, you will need to look at options elsewhere in the district.

Maybe there’s a simple explanation for the wandering. It’s true, Sophie was fine — people know and love her at this school, they want to take care of her. I just wish that when I’d asked Miss Y about it, she’d had a ready explanation. I know she does, too. She takes this as seriously as I do.

Honestly, the seriousness of it didn’t really sink in til I called my mom last night, to recount the events of the day, and mentioned it almost as an aside. She was horrified, speechless (rare for her). We hung up and 20 minutes later, I was in Safeway, and the phone rang again. What can we do about this? she asked.

I honestly don’t know. I’m back to thinking Sophie needs a micro chip or a tattoo or at least a tag that says, “If lost, please return to:”

Or maybe I’m just exhausted.

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Tags: Filed under: Down syndrome, first grade by Amysilverman

One Response to “The Mystery of the Wandering Kid”

  1. Oy. What the heck is it about DS and the wandering? It bloody terrifies me. Leo “escaping” is truly one of my worst nightmares (OK, there’s a long list).

    The way you are going about it, letting everyone say how awesome she’s doing where she is BEFORE you go into the “safety” measures, that’s brilliant. And that principal you mentioned? I hate her. Does the expression “least restrictive environment” mean ANYTHING?

    I have totally considered the chip. No, really.
    My friend got her daughter a cute ID necklace. Leo would never wear it but I bet Sophie would.
    But tattoos are much cooler…

    Or you could just move to NJ and we could build Sophie and Leo a fortress.

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