Saturday, April 17, 2010

Wondering about Wandering - Girl with Aspergers Syndrome, Nadia Bloom Found

If you've been following the national news in the past couple of weeks, you may have heard the story about a missing 11 year old girl with Asperger's Syndrome named Nadia Bloom from Winter Springs, Florida. 

She was rescued on April 12th after spending over 4 days lost in the woods near alligator-infested waters. Nadia was riding her bike near her Winter Springs home on April 9th when, she later told her parents, she decided to test out her new camera by taking a nature walk but became lost in the woods surrounding Lake Jesup.

I'm so happy to read that she was rescued safely!  God bless Nadia and her family and all those who spent time looking for her, not giving up hope!

I am including a link to an article about the story as shared by The Autism News titled "Girl's Rescue Sheds Light on Syndrome"

In addition to talking about Nadia's rescue, the story also shares about Nadia herself.  There is also some brief information about Asperger's Syndrome and its relation to the autism spectrum.  The article is a quick and interesting read.  Since I come across so few stories like this in the media of young girls on the autism spectrum, I wanted to make sure mention was given to it here at Aspierations.

As I read the story, I saw a bit of myself in Nadia.  When I was a girl, I would tend to wander and explore, sometimes going alone places where I'm sure in retrospect I shouldn't have.  I lived near a small part of Stevens Creek, a natural creek in the San Francisco Bay Area that covers over 20 miles.  Access to the Stevens Creek Trail wasn't far from our home and I remember lots of kids of all ages hanging out there, likely without their parents' permission!

I also remember a time in 8th grade when I was in Hawaii with my parents.  My Dad and I were out in the ocean in Maui snorkeling and at first, we were enjoying the sights together.  I was amazed and entranced by all the pretty fish and just like Nemo, I kept on swimming and swimming and swimming.  Unbeknownst to me, I must have really gotten out there because as my Dad tells the story, he looked up expecting me to be next to him and instead, I had swam halfway to Molokai!  Of course that's probably a bit of an exaggeration but the point is, I had no clue.  If my Dad hadn't gone after me to bring me back, who knows how far I would have gone.

I also saw a bit of Justin in Nadia.  Justin is now 10 1/2 and there are wooded walking trails near where we live now.  Justin knows he is not supposed to go through them alone.  About a month ago, when he was supposed to be coming straight home after school, we began to panic when after 30 minutes he wasn't yet home from what should have been a 10 minute leisurely walk.  Fortunately we found him about 20 minutes later.  He and a friend (a bus rider whose Mom had called the school wondering where her child was) had decided to take a "quick walk" through the woods.  Of course, "the woods" weren't part of his on the way home route.  Naturally he and his friend were talked to.  I was scared more than anything.  I also was nervous because I realized that I very well might have done exactly the same thing myself when I was his age.  I know that lots of children wander from time to time caught up in the moment but I do believe from what I have personally experienced with myself and my children, that being on the autism spectrum does heighten the tendency to want to sort of drift away.

I know many people would ask when does common sense come into play, especially with kids and adults that are supposedly considered higher-functioning?  (Autism and Asperger's Syndrome is an autism spectrum disorder condition and although some generalizations can be made, the severity of certain characteristics can vary substantially from person to person.

Okay, but for those who are mainstreamed, those who seem to be bright, those who could recite safety rules in advance if you asked them, where is the common sense?  It's a valid question. 

The answer (at least in my case) is I really don't know where it goes.  That's not an excuse!  I do remember that when I was young and this even continued into my teens and early 20s, that I would often get some sort of idea in my head about where I wanted to go or what I wanted to do and that "idea" would sort of take over without me always thinking through the negatives or possible consequences.  I guess you could call it a compulsion.

On the plus side, that meant that many times in my life, I could be considered a risk-taker.  (i.e. I drove thousands of miles across the country by myself when I was touring professionally with the Ladies Pro Bowlers Tour.  I did sometimes have a roommate or a carpool buddy but oftentimes I did it all alone.) 

On the negative side, it means that I may have contributed to putting myself in danger without realizing it on more than one occasion. (i.e.  when I became the victim of a stalker in college and also a rapist in my early 20s.) 

I am so glad to hear that Nadia is safe and recovering.  The story should also be food for thought to all of you out there who have children on the autism spectrum.  It is very easy for many of them to become so absorbed in their own little world that they wander off.  Please don't judge by appearances. 

Our youngest is getting close to 4 and will often try and wander, bolt and escape,especially now that he is mobile and fast.  Our oldest is 10 and can often get lost in his own fantasy world.  I am 42 and although I would like to say now that I *finally* hopefully have enough common sense not to wander off, I do find myself often caught in a daydream when I am out walking and when I'm in an unfamiliar area, I have a tendency to get lost.

Yes, I wonder about wandering...

Do you share any of the same experiences?  If so, please let me know!

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