I am writing this as part of an event created by the writers of Flappiness Is and Adventures in Extreme Parenting, called “An Outpouring of Love for the Mikaela Lynch Family.” It is stated in the description of this event, “We want to flood social media with love for the Lynch family and those who have suffered similar losses — under the cruel scrutiny of media and those who judge without knowing of what they speak.”
Mikaela went missing and was found days later, having drowned. In the same week, two other children, Drew Howell, age 2, and Owen Black, age 8, also passed under similar circumstances.
There are horrible statistics regarding children with Autism. One quote I read was that “48% of children with an ASD attempt to elope from a safe environment, a rate nearly four times higher than their unaffected siblings.” I’ve also learned that 91% of deaths for children with Autism are from drowning.
What happened in the Lynch, Howell and Black families happens all too often. And unfortunately, parents and caregivers are often unfairly scrutinized, despite the fact that many have set up many safety precautions to attempt to prevent just that horror from happening. Many people also are unaware of the dangers, that there is this prevalence of wandering and lessened awareness of danger.
We recently put a simple lock on our back gate, after Nathaniel learned to open the regular latch and began to head out. He often prefers to go out front & walk around the neighborhood over playing in the backyard. Fortunately, he was not able to do so unobserved, so he was not lost for a moment. Plus, he is generally clingy, so I can hope that if he did walk out alone, he’d come back for us or call for us before going far. We have no water near us – no one has an inground pool nearby of which we are aware, there are no waterways within a comfortable walking distance. But we live on a busy cut-through by busier streets & a major highway. Nathaniel will attempt to walk into the street if something attracts his attention. My last walk with him around the neighborhood jangled my nerves – he kept wanting to cross streets & each time we’d begin to cross, he’d wrench his hand away & try to head away down the middle of the street, stopping & planting himself when I grabbed his hand again. I had to immediately sweep him up & carry him across, with him protesting all the way. He’s only 3 – he may learn better any time soon – or perhaps not. We may have to get a more complicated lock system someday. Or he may learn that there are boundaries and they are for his safety. Either way, I’ve gained a new perspective when it comes to what families can go through.
If you ever see a young child alone & it seems off to you, it can’t hurt to take a moment to make sure he or she is okay. If someone in your neighborhood has a child who you know has an ASD, be mindful if you see him or her alone. Children can learn how to undo locks, climb fences. We all turn our backs for a moment sometimes & that’s all it can take for many children.