The mother of an autistic child is making a plea for more family resources after her 4-year-old son wandered away from his preschool class.
Carla Blankenship lives with her husband and three children in Winchester, 80 miles southeast of Nashville.
Blankenship is especially protective of her two younger boys, ages seven and four.
When she heard her youngest son, Chotzy, wandered away from school Tuesday, she feared the worst.
“Just terrified,” she said. “He could've been run over by a car. He could've been lost, could've never been found.”
The preschooler was found down the road from Cowan Elementary School by two passing motorcyclists. He wandered away from school grounds while his classmates were playing outside.
“He wasn't running, but he was walking at a pretty good pace or rate of speed,” Blankenship was told.
Blankenship is all too familiar with the wandering curiosity of not only Chotzy, but his brother, too. Both boys are autistic.
“Autistics are known for wandering,” she said. “We have bolt locks [at home], and go in and out with a key.”
Nashville's News 2 reached out to administrators on Wednesday regarding the incident. The school had no comment.
A representative with the district said the safety coordinator is looking into the matter.
Neither Blankenship nor her husband blame Chotzy's preschool teacher, who was clearly emotional when she notified the family of Chotzy's brief absence from class.
The family feels the incident is a sign of a larger issue of limited resources.
“I actually went to an IEP (Individualized Education Program) meeting. That's what they do for special education,” Blankenship said. “I was told [the school system was] understaffed. They didn't meet some of the state regulations at the time.”
It's not just the Franklin County school system that struggles with limited resources for families of autistic children.
Blankenship told Nashville's News 2 she has reached out to several local and national organizations that simply don't offer aid or services in rural parts of Tennessee.
For more information on state special education resources and compliance, visit Tennessee.gov.