If you can share one blog I write ever, please make it this one. It is a very important message that needs to reach the families of children with Autism. There have been some tragic stories out there this week, I don’t really feel like I need to write about the specifics here, but I do feel that the lives of children with Autism are in serious danger. And that is something that worries me!
I want the friends and therapists of parents of children with Autism who are worried about a child’s safety to come forward. If you see a parent on the edge, I want you to step in and do everything you can to help that child. So many times these children do not have a voice and sometimes they do not have a parent who is an advocate. You can be that person and you can possibly save a child’s life.
I do not know what to do to save these children from their own family. I wish I had an answer, but I feel that this is a good first step. Someone near this sort of breaking point to take the life of their child must be showing signs. Do not be blind to these signs, do not make excuses for someone. My heart has been breaking for all of the children we have recently lost to the one person who should have been taking care of them. The person that should have been their advocate, the person they trusted the most.
Parents, I want you to please take caution. If your child cannot speak or communicate well please make sure they have some sort of identification on themselves every day.
Today a friend of mine was at home when his sister brought over a child with Autism. A child that she found wandering by himself, franctically crossing the street. The boy only knew his first name, not his last or his address or phone number. He had no identification on him, no backpack, nothing. He said his parents names were Mom and Dad and that he didn’t go to school, but they later found out that he did. He was extremely disorientated, he was found wandering the streets scared and alone. We believe he got off at the wrong bus stop and didn’t make it to school. He said he had been out wandering for a while, it must have felt like hours to him. He ran to her car asking for help. Imagine if it was the wrong persons car that he ran to? Thankfully it was not. Thankfully the cops kept talking to him until they were able to figure out his school. Thankfully he is safe. But so many times this story doesn’t end this way.
Although our kids can get in a routine and we all feel confident that they understand how to get to school, because they have done this same routine for months without incident. It only takes one incident, one off day. It’s critical that if our kids can communicate their full name, their address and our phone numbers if they have the ability to. If they knew it three months ago, that doesn’t mean they will know it today. Keep going over it. Don’t ever stop. Not at age 10 and not at age 15! If they cannot always verbalize it they need to have some sort of identification whether it’s a med-alert necklace or bracelet. Something they cannot remove. I think we see how well our kids are doing and we forget that their brains are wired differently. That one distraction, one thing off on a bus ride could leave our child wandering alone on the streets.
Mateo wandering off is one of my biggest fears. I worry on the days he says he doesn’t want to go to school that he will find a way to escape. That he will think he can walk home to play Minecraft. So I bring this up with him. I tell him NEVER leave school without Mom or Dad, you know that right? Never try to walk home alone, it isn’t safe. I try to drill these thoughts into him, but it could just take one off day.
Please try to protect these kids. Not everyone is as lucky as so many of the children I know, who belong to loving homes that advocate for services. Not every child has a parent who would always find a way to keep them safe. Not every child with special needs is born into a loving home. It is heartbreaking, it tears me up and I want to save them all! But this is all I know how to do, is spread this message out there. Having a child with Autism is not the end of the world, but a beautiful beginning. We can see the world through a whole new set of eyes. There are many stressful times along the way, but this beautiful person will make every stressful time so worth it. Autism is pretty amazing in so many ways and there are so many beautifully gifted people out there who have Autism. Let’s all find a way to keep these incredible kids safe, together!