This morning, T. came in to wake me up (a second time -- he'd been in once already to make sure it was okay for him to go around the loop) and say there was someone in the garage to see me. I grabbed a robe and crocs and muttered, "It'd better not be Witnesses," and headed downstairs. I could hear the door to the kitchen from the garage was being held open and a man speaking in my kitchen before I was even down the stairs. A police officer had followed T. home.
He was extremely courteous and entirely supportive. A neighbor had called the police because my son was walking around the neighborhood -- he'll do the loop, and also walk down Spencer to a friend's house. Two marked cars stopped near him (slow day, I guess!), offered him a ride home, which he declined. He had a conversation with them and they grasped they he knew where he was and he knew where he lived so everyone came over to the house, where one (thank goodness only one) officer came in to chat with a parent to establish that yup, we know he's out and about.
This isn't precisely like walking to school. That's a timed, point A to point B, with an expected arrival time. T. walking around the neighborhood is not directed and can be repetitive. (Heck, it's pretty repetitive when I do loops around the neighborhood walking.) On the other hand, he is 11, careful around cars, polite to people and pets and generally well known. The police had no issue at all with what he was doing and the officer said, please get exercise every day, this is a great thing he is doing, kids need to get some independence, etc., everything you could possibly want.
We're not sure who called this in, or why. It's possible it is someone who has known T. and I for years, saw he was alone, wasn't used to that, wondered if perhaps I was lying unconscious somewhere and called it in on that basis. It's possible it was someone who saw T. the first time, thought nothing of it, saw him three more times and concluded he was lost and needed help finding his way home. Lots of kids with autism get lost or wander off, so it's a Good Thing to make sure an unattended kid who is wandering around has a safe point of contact to ensure that everything is okay, and calling a community helper like the police is better in many ways than approaching the child yourself.
But it was still pretty weird that someone called the cops on my kid. T. is excited and sort of hopes it happens again. He's going to accept a ride home in the police vehicle next time. "I'll get my own private police ride!", he said.