When we created the facebook page “Autism Shines” the goal was to counteract the information in the press about people with autism being dangerous. This was in the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings, as autism was being repeatedly blamed for the horrors of what happened that cold December day. We wanted to show the world that they need not fear our autistic children, parents and friends.
Today, the admins at Autism Shines along with hundreds of bloggers and journalists are working to counteract the message we’ve been seeing replayed over and over again in the media following the disappearances and subsequent drownings of children with autism: This is the parents fault. The parents of autistic children should have known better. How could they have lost their child? How could they have been so negligent?
Losing a child is a pain no parent should have to feel, and it’s one I can’t even begin to comprehend. To make matters worse people who have no clue what it’s like to parent, much less parent a child with special needs, weigh in on the mistakes of parents whose lives they have no understanding of. Can you imagine that? The grief of losing a child compounded with the guilt of being told it was your fault. And I’m sure that these parents feel that if they were there, this wouldn’t have happened. If they had not looked away for one minute, they’d still have their child. I’m sure the guilt they are feeling themselves is more than any of us could ever begin to imagine. They don’t need other people adding to that. They need to be told that it’s not their fault. This could have happened to any of us.
And it’s not their fault at all. People with special needs have a tendency to wander. It’s seen most in the autism community, but the Down syndrome community, the Alzheimer’s community and others have their share. I thought about writing about the time we lost Casey. There were too many scary instances to just pick one. Abby has just begun to really walk, and now she walks AWAY. When I worked with people who have Alzheimer’s disease, we had to make sure all the doors were locked or the residents would wander away. One time, a gentleman did. The door wasn’t properly locked and the aid thought the nurse had him. Neither did. He was found down the street, sitting on a bench, having a stroke.
Being a parent of someone with significant special needs is tough. It means every guard you put up when your children are toddlers never fully comes down. You never stop worrying. You never get a real break. Think about all of the times with your toddlers when you put them in front of the TV, sat them down with a book, or with a sibling so you could get a shower, go to the bathroom or even get online for a minute or two. Those two minutes are the same amount of time it took for Mickaela Lynch to wander away. Did you ever wake up to find your child had awaken before you? This is what happened to the family of Owen Black. His body was found a half a mile away from his home. Children with autism are not only prone to wander, but they are drawn to bodies of water.
When the unimaginable happens, we want answers. We want to believe that something like this could never happen to us. We want to believe that it’s the parents fault because that gives us some control when honestly, there is none. From everything I’ve seen, these parents were GREAT parents. They turned away for a moment, like any of us do, and tragedy happened. These parents need compassion, they need love, they need our prayers and our support. Please join with us today in an outpouring of love for the families of Mickaela Lynch, Owen Black and Drew Howell. Please read and share the posts of other bloggers here: Outpouring of Love.
If you have children with autism or other disabilities who are prone to wandering, make sure that your neighbors are aware of this along with the local police and fire departments. There is information on how to do that AAWARE.
And I’m begging you, if you are one of my readers that do not have a child with special needs, but know someone who does, offer respite. Offer a chance for a parent to take a break, to take a nap, anything. You’ll be loved forever for it.