We went to the beach yesterday.
Like most children with autism, Jackson LOVES to play in water…so naturally he was delighted.
We spent a good 4 hours there, and when I told Jackson we needed to get out of the water and pack of the car…he cried and tried to run away.
I caught him, thankfully, but on the way home as I felt the exhaustion of the day set in….I really got to thinking about Mikaela (if you don’t know Mikaela’s story yet, you can read it HERE), her parents, and all the people that love her….and how broken and terrible they all must feel right now.
But then, in the face of their pain…certain people and journalists began to cast blame on her parents for what happened, accusing them of being careless and inattentive.
I cannot imagine how horrible it must be to suffer the loss of a child through a horrible accident and then have to live through strangers saying terrible things and making accusations when they don’t even understand what life with a child like Jackson or Mikaela is like.
What happened to Mikaela could have also happened to Jackson or another child with an ASD. Jackson has little understanding of danger or a sense of fear for things like drowning, being run over by a car, or taken by a stranger.
Mikaela did not understand or fear those things either…but like Jackson, she had the natural tendency to wander way from her home.
There are various reasons someone with autism may wander. More often than not, he/she will wander to something of interest, especially water, or away from something that is bothersome, such as uncomfortable noise or bright lights.
In 2011, a study conducted by the Interactive Autism Network through the Kennedy Krieger Institute found that roughly half, or 49%, of children with autism attempt to elope from a safe environment, a rate nearly four times higher than their unaffected siblings.
- More than one third of children who elope are never or rarely able to communicate their name, address, or phone number verbally or by writing/typing
- Two in three parents report their missing children had a “close call” with a traffic injury
- 32% of parents report their missing children had a “close call” with a possible drowning
- Wandering was ranked among the most stressful ASD behaviors by 58% of parents of elopers
- 62% of families with children who elope were prevented from attending/enjoying activities outside the home due to fear of wandering
- 40% of parents had suffered sleep disruption due to fear of elopement
- Half of families with elopers report they had never received advice or guidance about elopement from a professional*
Today, I want to let Mikaela’s family know that my heart goes out to them in this time of devastating loss. It could have just as easily been Jackson…and with that in mind I ask that if you know a family that has a child on the spectrum….think twice before casting judgement…we are all doing the very best we can for our children, just as you are for yours.
A number of resources have been made available to families raising children at risk for wandering or elopement. Please take the time over the next few days to visit each and utilize any and all that may be helpful to you.
*Information in italics above was found at awaare.org.