It’s been a tough few days for our community. There has been a lot of sad news about our babies wandering off and not being found until it was too late. Too many families are grieving. Among them are the ones that everyone seems to be talking about today; The families of Mikaela Lynch,Drew Howell and Owen Black.
I’m sorry to those of you who have been reading about it all day as I doubt if I’ll have anything of worth to add really. I am only writing because there are people reading this who don’t know. They don’t know the signs and they sure as hell don’t know the day to day trials. TV ads about autism simply say to “learn the signs” but most people are not going to go looking. I would argue that the vast majority of people who will learn the signs are parents who have questions about their own childs delays. So instead of sending people to do their own research, I think we need to be more IN THEIR FACE about what could happen so they can help and at the very least … not say hurtful or stupid things.
I don’t know much about the 3 families I mentioned except that they had children on the autism spectrum and that their children wandered off and that their children died before they could be found.
I don’t know if for any of them this was the 1st or the 57th time they had wandered off.
I don’t know if anything anyone says could make them feel any worse at this time, but I know it makes me angry that people ask questions like, “Why weren’t their parents watching them?”
I don’t know why people think they have the right to presume incompetence on the parents part but I know it’s dangerous and cruel to do so. I would presume that most parents want to keep their children safe and do whatever they can to facilitate that. I would assume that regardless of the safety measures that were in place, the parents have gone over every single detail of what happened and blamed themselves a thousand and one ways.
I know that my son is also on the autism spectrum and that means statistically, he is way more likely to wander off than other 5 year olds. I know that if my son wanders off, he’s likely to end up in a dangerous situation because he has no sense of danger. I know that calling his name will more than likely not make him come back to me or you or the police. I know that I have had to pull him away from the curb because someone on the other side of the street was walking a dog. I know he will chase butterflies and even crouch down to follow a line of ants. I know that if my son sees a grassy hill he will want to run/roll down it with no thought about what’s at the bottom of that hill. I know that my son does not tend to wander but even so, we have to be vigilant about keeping our eyes on him. We do not allow him to go on school field trips unless one of us is there with him and I am always on edge when I have to take both kids outside of our home by myself even if it’s just to go to the grocery store. I know that I keep trying to teach him about safety even though it doesn’t seem to be sinking in at all. I know that it’s hard to watch children who are not constantly trying to slip away from you. I know it must be so much harder if your child is older, taller, stronger and has the urge to escape for whatever reason. I know that, for anyone, it is impossible to keep your eyes and hands on your children at all times.
The one time that I lost Jay was in a store. CC had his eyes on Ace and I had my eyes on Jay. I was not at all distracted. Yet, I literally watched him turn the corner and just vanish.
When we found him, he was unharmed and blissfully unaware that anything had gone wrong. I was just plain lucky.
As scary as that incident was, It never crossed my mind to walk into our local police station to tell them about Jay. I never thought about telling our neighbours about his diagnosis and asking them to be aware just in case … anything.
I thought we had it under control. I thought we had learned our lesson. When we go out now we are on extra high alert. We have always had safety gates on our windows. Jay has never shown any interest in leaving our home without us, but I feel good knowing that we have locks that, as far as I know, he can’t open. We live in a building with a heavy front door that he cannot open even if he was to get out of our apartment.
I didn’t think about talking to our police and neighbours, that is, until we all started talking about Mikaela and Drew and Owen. I thought doing things like that was for “other” people. People whose kids tended to wander off on a regular basis. But all it takes is one time.
I don’t usually jump on blog posting band wagons. I tend to stay away from the hot topics. But today I am shaken.
I am scared.
I am changed.
I am going to talk to our police and let them know where we live and give them info on my Jay and provide them with a recent picture.
I am going to talk to our neighbours. There’s just no such thing as having it totally under control. There’s no such thing as being too safe or too careful.