There was an event in my life that I had fully forgotten about until I reheard a story yesterday. This story was from a police officer who had received an odd call.
One morning at around 5:30AM a three year old got on a bus with a line of people. The bus went several blocks and then the driver came on the intercom and said, "Would the parent of the child in the aisle please show the child a seat." After a few moments no one claimed the child and the police were called.
The bus remained parked and the riders tried to remember where the child got on. The child was fully non-verbal and had autism. This turned into a great mystery as to where the child came from, how he got on the bus, and why his parents allowed such a thing to even happen.
Instantly the officers were prepared for a neglect case, but before they got to that point they had to figure out where the child came from. So, from starting where the bus was parked and working backwards on the bus route, they went door to door as dawn was just breaking. There were some angry sleepers that got woken up, but eventually one person said that they thought that the child lived in an apartment above a store.
The police went there and this officer was ready to let the parents have it, but as they knocked on the door they heard sobbing. The door opened and the mother was very much relieved that her child had been found. The officer noted that there were multiple locks on the door and a child barrier that the child managed to climb over to get out.
Why is this story relevant? Well, for one, it shows that toddlers on the spectrum are very good problem solvers and this child did what the parents thought was impossible. But secondly, it conjured up a memory from when I was about two-and-a-half years old.
I remember this vividly. One of my favorite things to do an that age was to slid down the stairs on my rear. If awareness had been what it is today it surely would have been a red flag that I was on the spectrum because I would do this non-stop for hours on end. When I did this there usually was adult supervision because, well, intentionally sliding down stairs isn't the safest of hobbies to have.
One evening the door to the "Hall of Stairs" was locked. It was actually doubly locked with the door know being locked as well as a chain lock. I was still very young and I was not that tall so reaching both locks proved to be a challenge. However, I was very determined because I wanted to go down the stairs and these locks had to be picked. I remember staring up at them with confusion and I tried jumping to unlock them, but I was still way short. Then I had an idea.
Why did nobody see me move this slide? This I don't recall, but I remember it didn't take me that long to slowly move this slide down the long hallway. Once I made it I looked down both ways of this hall to make sure no one was looking and I climbed up and I defeated both locks.
Once the locks were out of the way, I went about and turned the knob to open the door. I was as happy as I could be because, for one, I had solved a big problem and I felt like there were no boundaries that could fence me in, and secondly, and more importantly, it was time to go down the stairs.
Before I went down the first time I had an idea. I usually started down the stairs slowly because it took a while for gravity to kick in and get me going fast down the carpeted stairs. How could I go faster? Well, I had brought a slide from my room so I looked at the slide, looked at the stairs, then looked at the slide and I knew paradise was just one slide away.
In my police presentations I state that people on the spectrum can make bad judgments and can have a disregard to danger. This also could probably be said for most two year olds, and on this night I turned my slide where I would slide down the stairs. Once this was done I climbed atop the slide and looked at the set of at 14 stairs and, without fear, I slid down.
There's a reason why my parents always started me out slow down the stairs when I would slide and that is because if one goes to fast control is lost and one can start to tumble. Going down this small slide gave me a faster start, but since I didn't hit the first step flush I ended up tumbling and all I remember from the rest of this excursion down the stairs is that it hurt greatly.
Nothing was broken and I learned my lesson after that, but this is a great example of just how fast a person on the spectrum can get something down. From the point in time I decided I wanted to bypass the locks to going down the slide had to be less than five minutes. On top of that, who would have figured that a child would be able to undo the lock that was at least twice my height? One skill that I have heard a lot from parents, and using my own example, we can be very good problem solvers and what you may think is child proof is just a puzzle that we are going to solve. And once we do, well, it may prove to be as exciting as an Indiana Jones movies as we try our hand at some wacky stunt. In my example I learned that stairs are not something to play around on after my tumble down them.