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Autism and Wandering: How Many More Must Die?

Autism and Wandering: How Many More Must Die?

(This guest post is written by Dad of Angel.)

To the family of Mikaela Lynch, please accept our deepest sympathy and condolences. Mikaela’s death was a very unfortunate accident that has had a whiplash effect in many ways. First, your child was missing, second your child dies, then all of a sudden thousands of people out of right field are pointing fingers at you and playing the blame game.

Blaming the family is just wrong and it is heartless. These people are heartbroken and grieving.  They need us now because they are hurting. There are people out there saying that Mikaela’s parents were not prepared for disaster and that they should’ve been paying attention. Some say they are bad parents and this is all their fault. I find these comments unacceptable, ignorant, demeaning, and damaging.

Being a dad of a wonderful autistic child, I can do everything I can to prevent an accident or avoid a disaster but disasters and accidents will impose their own will when we least expect it. From our experiences with Angel, we know that autistic children are attracted to foreign objects, animals, plants, lights, and things that are colorful. Children with autism are also drawn to water. In an effort to appease their curiosity, some of them look for ways to explore their surroundings without understanding the potential dangers around them. This lack of awareness of danger is multiplied because their cognitive skills do not always coincide with their chronological age. This could mean a five-year old having the cognitive skills of a one-year old. So where does this leave us as a community?

autism wandering

The tragic death of Mikaela is a reminder that wandering in the autism community is a REAL issue that NEEDS national attention.

When states do not extend Amber Alerts to cases like Mikaela’s and the news media ignores the missing person reports, the chances of these children being found alive decreases tremendously. When the public is not properly addressed regarding the concerns of the autistic community, there will be many people who will make ignorant comments. This is wrong and unfortunate.

To those who criticize, please remember that when you point one finger at the parents and you ask the wrong questions, there are three fingers pointing back at you with three suggestions:

  1. learn about autism and its characteristics
  2. show support to parents and organizations who deal with autism
  3. don’t cast any blame whatsoever without having been a parent AND a parent of an autistic child
    (and even then blame helps no one)

I do hope that the government and media will see a missing autistic child report as a more serious matter and put things in place to minimize these cases.

Lastly, I openly challenge anyone who really feels that these parents should be blamed and scorned because of the circumstances leading to their unfortunate loss.

R.I.P Mikaela Lynch, Owen Black, Drew Howell and all children with autism who have lost their lives.

Please visit the National Autism Association  and AWAARE Web sites for more information on wandering and how we can keep our children safe. You can also sign up to get their free Big Red Safety Box.

Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Sincerely,

Dad of Angel

Miz Kp
Written by Miz Kp

22 Comment responses

  1. Avatar
    May 20, 2013

    My heart & deepest condolences I give to Mikaela’s family. If you see a kid by themself looking lost or smiling unaware going wherever…if you sense something is wrong or if you, as part of the autism family, sense a child by themself is autistic, please help.

    Reply

  2. Avatar
    May 20, 2013

    I urge anyone, who is reading this post right now to share it as much as possible. We may pass a child smiling walking by himself or herself in the street & assume everything is okay as we perceive smiling & contentment. But if people, unaware of this problem, read this post, they will learn something and perhaps may pass by a lost child, sense that something is wrong and help. You don’t have to share it. I just feel every lil’ bit helps. I know there are things I was ignorant to and then after listening or reading I learned something and I was able to recognize whatever or sense something is wrong with the picture before me. God bless you all, especially our children.

    Reply

  3. Avatar
    May 20, 2013

    I have autism myself. It doesn’t affect my regular life that much, but I cried reading this. My heart goes out to all those above that lost their lives, and to their familes and loved ones. Thank you Miz Kp for posting such wonderful words.

    Reply

    • Avatar
      May 20, 2013

      You are welcome. I hope we never have another reason to post about another child in this way. Thanks to Dad of Angel for sharing his thoughts.

      Reply

  4. Avatar
    May 20, 2013

    Heartfelt sympathy to Mikaela’s family and other families that have faced similar tragedies. Thanks for this post which is a call for positive action by all of us to prevent these tragic outcomes. Although Autism Awareness Month (April) has ended, autism awareness must go on as well as advocacy for the protection of autistic and other special needs children and adults.

    Reply

  5. Avatar
    May 20, 2013

    Angel will not hesitate to bolt away from us when we are outdoors. It is scary hoping we can get to him before a speeding car does. We have not had issues with wandering but it is scary to imagine what it must feel lile to not know where your child has gone. My heart goes out to all the families that have been affected. I hope we can bring more awareness to this issue.

    Reply

  6. Avatar
    May 20, 2013

    to David, thank you for your thoughts. i am truly honored to hear your comments. i cried when the story with Mikaela Lynch died. i just wish people would just try to understand us all, and as family of autistic people, we will always stand for our own

    Reply

  7. Avatar
    May 20, 2013

    Thank you for shedding light on this subject. I admit that I’m pretty ignorant about autism, but I’m open to learning about it.

    My condolences to the families of these three children. I do hope that their deaths are not in vain, and that people learn from these tragedies.

    Reply

    • Avatar
      May 20, 2013

      You are welcome Sarah. Thanks for your comment. We are trying out best to spread awareness here. Please come back often. I agree that I hope people can learn from these tragedies. They happen so much more often than reported, unfortunately.

      Reply

  8. Avatar
    May 20, 2013

    These tragedies break my heart. I wish there was more information about where on the spectrum children who wander are. It would help parents to know this before turning their homes into fortresses and if their were signs that a child may wander before they actually do? I have a 5 year old and I really worry that one day something may trigger him to want to take off and we are very responsible parents but obviously things happen.

    Reply

    • Avatar
      May 20, 2013

      Hi Carolyn. The National Autism Association and AWAARE have information on their sites about wandering. From what I have heard from other parents with kids on varying parts of the spectrum who wander: The triggers vary and where the child is on the spectrum is not an indication of if they will wander or not. It is best to err on the side of caution. I know it is scary. Angel is also 5 and we worry as to what could trigger him to wander. Right now we have to deal with him bolting in a congested city.

      Reply

  9. Avatar
    May 20, 2013

    To Sarah L. Webb, there is no shame in admitting ignorance. It starts with one. You are taking the right steps in getting involved. I was once very ignorant on the subject of autism. There is alot we can learn from. I can tell you stories of my experiences as a Dad of an autistic child. I wonder how else other people think about these recent events. Do we have to do a million autistic march or something???

    Reply

  10. Avatar
    May 20, 2013

    Awesome post Dad and great information in the comments too. I am so sick of the blame game I could scream. Like the parents aren’t blaming themselves enough, let’s have complete strangers pile on too. My favorite part was:

    “To those who criticize, please remember that when you point one finger at the parents and you ask the wrong questions, there are three fingers pointing back at you with three suggestions:
    1.learn about autism and its characteristics
    2.show support to parents and organizations who deal with autism
    3.don’t cast any blame whatsoever without having been a parent AND a parent of an autistic child”

    I believe every missing child, on or off the spectrum, needs to receive massive amounts of exposure to bring them home. Knowing a child is on the spectrum can be helpful in the search and should not be a reason to judge someone’s parenting.

    Reply

    • Avatar
      May 21, 2013

      I agree that massive amounts of exposure is critical. The sooner the better.

      Reply

  11. Avatar
    May 21, 2013

    Awesome post, my condolences to the families.

    I’ve been quite disturbed by these news and I’ve made it my mission to create a cost-efficient GPS locator / personal alarm for autistic children.

    My challenge is that these products already exist but they’re not suitable for use with ASD.

    I’m looking for parents or individuals who either have ASD or has experience with ASD.
    I would like to get insights from you guys so I can develop a effective product that can help the community.

    Sorry I may look like I’m hi-jacking this post, but I’m sincere in helping the Autism community and I hope people will be willing to speak to me.

    Thanks in advance.

    Reply

    • Avatar
      May 21, 2013

      Maybe you can put together a survey to reach parents. Facebook and twitter are also good avenues to do so.

      Reply

  12. Avatar
    May 21, 2013

    Thank you for this post, you perfectly captured what many of us feel. I have shed many tears for these children who lost their lives and for the parents.

    Reply

    • Avatar
      May 21, 2013

      Thanks for your comment, Nicksmommy.

      Reply

  13. Avatar
    May 21, 2013

    Great post Angels dad! Very heartfelt and eyeopening. It’s so easy to pass judgement on what you don’t know, we’ve all been on both sides of the fence. I have a 9 year old who loves to hop and jump off. I have to keep brite items in her hair when I know we’ll be in crowds because in a second she will hop off. I use to be the parent who had judgement on what I then called children on a leash, or large children in strollers. Once I became a parent I got it…literally! We all do our best as parents but sadly it really just takes a moment for a tragedy to happen. often times no matter how well prepared we are, we can’t predict what in that moment will be our child’s distraction. I pray the lives lost wont be in vain, and the awareness of wandering gets to be taking more seriously by officials. To start we can get our communities involved, and Get to know our local police and firemen let them know there are children on the spectrum in their area. Keep current photos of our children on hand at all times, have ID’s on our children and order your Big Red Safety Box. These small steps will put us in the right direction.

    Reply

  14. Avatar
    May 21, 2013

    Dad of Angel, thanks for sharing. I have a son who bolts and it is hard to describe the disempowering feeling and loss of control one feels when your child runs away and your heart is thumping and you are gasping for air just hoping just trying to reach him/her before a car does, an unkind stranger, or the pavement itself. My condolences to this family. They are not to blame, we are not to blame, we are simply doing out best. We need to take our kids outside, they need to run around, but how do you do this in a city with so little enclosed places to play in? Thanks again, I am definitley sharing this.

    Reply

  15. Avatar
    May 22, 2013

    i ll do the survey if u like. i still cant believe they are gone. and in the wake of the oklahoma tornado, im afraid that this series of events will be wrongfully overshadowed by the tornado that came down.

    Reply

  16. Avatar
    May 22, 2013

    My heart breaks for these parents and their families. This was a horrible tragic accident. My 11 year old is nonverbal autistic & looks for opportunities to bolt. It only takes a second and he’s gone. This could happen to anyone but children are at more of a risk. I find it utterly unspeakable that anyone would point fingers and place blame on these families. They are suffering such a devasting loss, what could be worse than losing your child?. I applaude you Miz Kp & Angels dad for trying to raise awareness.

    Reply

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