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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Wandering

Photo Credit -Virtual Day of Remembrance Facebook Event
They want to share this far and wide. 
The first time Red wandered away from me was when he was about three and a half years-old. 
I  am bathing his newborn brother, Blue.  Red is in the bathroom with us at first, but then he wanders down the hall for a few minutes.  I think that he's in his room playing.  I’m at home alone with the boys.  My husband traveled quite a bit for work.  At the time, he was working as a contractor for the Air Force and would travel all over the world ensuring the safety of their computer networks.  While I was home ensuring the safety and care of our children.  At least I was supposed to be. 
Suddenly, the doorbell rings.  I wasn't expecting anyone this time of night, un-announced.  I grab Blue out of the bath, wrap him in a towel and trepidatiously open the front door.  It's my neighbor from two doors down, with baby Red in a t-shirt and diaper.  
Mortified! What kind of moron does she think I am? How in the hell did he get out the door?  It turns out, he went through the kitchen, through the laundry room door, and underneath a crack in the garage door. Beyond being mortified, I was grateful that she was so sweet about it.  So many other scenarios could have played out.  And for so many, they have.  The very worst has happened for so many children on the autism spectrum.  
Of course, I knew nothing of autism at this time.  All I knew is that my child did not communicate with me the way that I expected him to as a toddler.  He talked in garbled language that I did not understand.  He had been diagnosed with a speech delay at the time, but that was it.  No talk of autism. In fact, I don’t think I even knew what autism was or how big of a spectrum it actually is.  This was 1999. 
I knew nothing of this wandering scenario that I would eventually face again as the years went by. 
For so many families, the child isn’t found within a five or 10 minute period.  For many, they are never found alive.  This very well, could have been our family.  
Today, April 1, 2014, in a virtual candlelight vigil, we remember the many children with autism who have lost their lives after wandering. 
The Kennedy Krieger Institute reported in a 2011 study that up to 48% of all children with autism will engage in wandering behavior or "elopement," which is defined as the tendency to leave a non life threatening space and enter into a potentially dangerous one, and is a rate 4 times higher than their neurotypical siblings.

The Krieger Institute also reported "35% of families with children who elope report their children are “never” or “rarely" able to communicate their name, address, or phone number by any means."

In 2012, the National Autism Association reported that "accidental drowning accounted for 91% total U.S. deaths reported in children with an ASD ages 14 and younger subsequent to wandering/elopement."

This vigil is being organized to spread awareness of the very real issue of wandering behavior in autistic children and the unspeakable tragedies that can, and have occurred as a result. 

Please join us in respectful remembrance of the children who have died.

For more information on keeping our children safe visit autismsafety.org