A mother from Belgrade is facing charges after her special needs son wandered away from home and had to be pulled from a stream five miles away by a stranger.
Patricia Stanton was headed to work at around 6:00 Monday morning. While traveling on the Wings Mills Road in Mt. Vernon she spotted a young boy in the middle of the street. She pulled over to see if he needed help but when she approached the boy, he headed down the embankment toward the water.
“He got into the water and was climbing on the bridge abutment and was hanging onto the bridge abutment and climbing on the rocks to go under the bridge,” Stanton said Tuesday. “I kept calling to him and he wasn’t really responding. I could hear ‘no, no’ and I was calling for his name and by the time I got down to him and he wasn’t responding, I just stepped into the water and grabbed him and pulled him out.”
Stanton says she tried talking to him and realized he was a child with special needs and she called 911.
“I thought that maybe he lived nearby and when he got back up to the road, he started walking and I asked him for his hand and he let me take his hand for a little bit. I just kept talking to him and thinking that maybe he’d be headed towards home and i’d just go with him to make sure he was going home,” Stanton said.
But the boy climbed up on a nearby culvert and wanted to go back in the water. With the help of another passerby, the two good samaritans were able to get the boy to safety. Police arrived and discovered the boy had wandered over five miles from his home in Belgrade.
State police charged the boy’s mother with endangering the welfare of a child. Police say she didn’t realize her son was gone until they brought him home. Police are not releasing the boy’s age, but they’re describing him as a pre-teen. When they got him home the boy was wet but other than that he was uninjured.
The folks at the Maine Parent Federation provide support for parents of children with special needs. MPF Executive Director Janice Lachance, whose son is autistic. Lachance says there are things that families can do to alert parents their child is leaving the house, like putting an alarm or bells on the door.
We didn’t want to out locks on the door or bolts on the door because of fire,” Lachance said.
Carrie Woodcock also works at MPF and her daughter suffers from down syndrome. Woodcock says it’s not that it’s more common for a child with special needs to wander off, they just don’t communicate their intentions to their parents the way a child who doesn’t suffer from special needs would.
“She’s not gonna tell me she’s leaving the house,” Woodcock said. “So I could be vacuuming and not hear even an alarm on the door go off and she can wander off and it could be a matter of 30 seconds.”
For more information on the maine parents federation, go to their website startingpointsfor.me.org