Autism and Wandering: How Many More Must Die?

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(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.


Dad of Angel