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To the Security Guard Who Did Much More Than Find My Lost Son

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Before Ethan was diagnosed with Hunter syndrome, there were plenty of other diagnoses made by all kinds of doctors and specialists. Sensory processing disorder was the most recent one, leading up to Christmas 2007. During that week, the atmosphere in Galway, Ireland, was magical. The boys were anticipating the arrival of Santa Claus himself.

“Let’s take the lads into town for an hour and soak up some of the atmosphere,” my husband suggested as the cold winter winds shook our leafless hedges.

“Why don’t we just go as far as Smyths Toys?” I said, nodding toward Ethan and J., who just happened to be leafing through the toy store’s catalog.

“Why not? Let’s get these kids super excited,” my husband replied, grabbing their coats.

Neither of our boys ever needs any motivation to get excited, but there’s something about Christmas. We bundled ourselves up and faced the dark wintery evening.

“Santee, it’s Trissmass,” Ethan yelped while sitting in the car. It was quickly followed by his infamous, “Whoo hoo!”

“We’ll go in for five minutes. If it’s crazy, we’ll just leave,” my husband said, patting my leg as he opened the car door.

If you ever have a half-hour to spare on December 23, I beg you to visit a toy shop — without the kids. You will never see anything like it — fully grown adults shoving, grabbing, rushing and shouting.

But in hindsight, that’s when we should’ve turned and left. We had our giggle. There was really no need to actually step into the madness, but, as always, J. had a different idea.

“Spider-Man, Spider-Man. Please, Daddy? Spider-Man, Spider-Man,” J. repeated over and over. He was on the verge of a toddler tantrum.

“Whoo hoo!” Ethan screeched.

“Do you want to go to the teddies, and I’ll bring J. to look at Spider-Man? Meet you back here in five,” my husband said, scooping J. up.

“Come on, buddy, let’s go see Mickey Mouse,” I told Ethan as I held his hand and braced myself.

The crowd was dense at the teddy bear aisle entrance. Ethan began to wriggle, trying hard to break from my grip. I held tighter. Pushing my way through a group of arguing parents, I decided midway through it wasn’t a good idea, so I swiftly changed direction. Suddenly, Ethan’s hand jerked. He was gone.

I pushed harder through the crowd. My heart was racing.

”Ethan!” I roared, my eyes beginning to well up.

The crowd suddenly grew quiet. “We’ll find him,” I heard a few say. “Close the doors,” someone else shouted. I didn’t have time to thank any of them. My husband ran toward me with J. in his arms.

“Over here,” a woman motioned for me to go toward her.

And there he was under the escalator, rocking himself back and forth, his chubby hands covering his ears, his eyes shut tight. Next to him sat a security guard who was humming gently and rocking slightly slower than Ethan. We didn’t interrupt.

My heart rate slowed down as other shoppers nodded and smiled at me. We waited by the escalator, unsure of what to do.

The man slowly got up, all 6 feet of him. I thanked him for keeping my baby safe.

“My son has autism, I get it,” he said. “Little man will be fine in a minute.” He shook my husband’s hand while nodding at me.

Another diagnosis. This time, though, it was made by a wonderful special needs father, who, at that moment in time, was an angel.

He put the word autism out there for us, so we took that information to Ethan’s doctor, who diagnosed him with autistic traits. That led to Ethan’s final diagnosis of Hunter syndrome.

We were able to arrive at the diagnosis sooner because of a caring security guard working on a busy December evening in a toy store.

Thank you, kind sir. Thank you.

A version of this post originally appeared on

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Originally published: May 28, 2015
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