About Stuart Duncan

My name is Stuart Duncan, creator of http://www.stuartduncan.name. My oldest son (Cameron) has Autism while my younger son (Tyler) does not. I am a work from home web developer with a background in radio. I do my very best to stay educated and do what ever is necessary to ensure my children have the tools they need to thrive. I share my stories and experiences in an effort to further grow and strengthen the online Autism community and to promote Autism Understanding and Acceptance.
Author Archive | Stuart Duncan

Until it happens to you – Honoring Mikaela Lynch

Do you remember when you first heard about autism? I don’t. I’m fairly certain it was long before I ever became a parent, but I don’t remember exactly. I find the same to be true of most parents that I talk to. We just don’t bother learning about it because it doesn’t pertain to us, therefore, it doesn’t interest us. Until we have a child with autism. Then we have no choice. But what if we had learned about it before the fact? I think, and it may be just me, that it would have helped me immensely to know more about autism before I had to.

Now, as recent events teach us, elopement, or wandering, is far too real and it happens far too frequently. Both Mikaela Lynch and Owen Black were found within one week of each, on opposites sides of the US, in water… dead. All it took was a split second, their parents lost sight of them for just a split second, and they were gone. Have you ever looked away from your child for more than second? I know have. A lot. In fact, I’d wager that it’s pretty much impossible to have your child in your line of sight at all times for years, much less decades.

But these aren’t the first children to wander off. They aren’t the first to be found in the most tragic way possible. And unfortunately, they very likely won’t be the last. And the reason, I fear, is that many people will read these stories with a heavy heart, feeling much sorrow and then moving on and not learning more. Because it doesn’t pertain to them. It doesn’t interest them.

This isn’t something that you can put off or dismiss because it doesn’t interest you. This isn’t something that you should wait to learn more about until it happens to you. If the deaths of these innocent little children is to mean anything, I would hope that it serves as a lesson to the rest of us to not wait… to not let it happen to us and then wish we had learned more earlier.

autism elopmentThe National Autism Association has taken action to help people be proactive in learning more and being prepared now, not later. Their Big Red Safety Box is a great start in preventing these tragedies from hitting much closer to home than you’d like. I strongly advise that you either take them up on this offer or at the very least, read about it, learn about it and prepare in your own way.

I don’t know the families of the children and I don’t know exactly what happened on those days. I do know, however, that this could have happened to anyone. No one is to blame. No one is at fault. What those people need is support, a shoulder, a hug. No media circus, no questions about how they could have let it happen, no accusations, no guilt.

If it had happened to me, I’d be devastated. I’d be furious. I’d be at my lowest. But it could have happened to me. It could have! And I have no idea how to prevent it. Because until now, I’ve read the news stories and in time, forgotten them. Because until now, I kept thinking that it was just something that happened to other people.

I sit here, wondering if those families were like me. Dismissing the stories, forgetting the lessons… until it happened to them. Did they know about autism before their child’s diagnosis? Did they know about how often children with autism wander away from safety and into danger? Did they know how often children with autism are found later, dead, in water?

I bet they know now. All too well. Not just about their own child but about the facts, the figures, the statistics.

I’m not Mikaela Lynch’s dad, but I would like to think that if I was, I’d want other dads to learn to not put off learning, to not dismiss the lessons being taught this day and most importantly, to not forget.

I put off learning about autism until I had no choice. I’d hate to think how I would feel if I put off learning about autistic elopement until it’s too late. I’d hate to think that I had learned the risks and learned the steps to avoid it and had the chance to take it… but forgot and failed to prevent it.

I certainly can’t speak for the families of these children nor any families that have gone through this previously but I would like to think, if there was anything those people could hope to come from these great tragedies is that the rest of us learn to not wait until it happens to us before we decide to do something about it.

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I will not judge you

be curious not judgementalWe are a judgmental species. We judge others the moment we meet them. How a person looks, how they behave, what they wear, how they speak, the words they use, their posture and then, if we ever get that far, their decisions and opinions. We can’t help it. We form our own opinions, not just of those traits but of those people themselves, without even knowing them.

If you feel that you are judged by everyone, everywhere you go, I want you to know that I will not judge you.

If you find parenting hard, I will not judge you. If you feel that you are struggling, I will not judge you. If you have your own vices and/or demons, I will not judge you.

If you’re a strange one, I will not judge you. If you are the “odd one out”, I will not judge you.

If have friends that others do not approve of, I will not judge you. If you support charities or groups that others find appalling, I will not judge you.

If you wish that your child did not have a disorder or disability, I will not judge you. If you wish that you yourself did not have a disorder or disability, I will not judge you.

If you screw up despite your best intentions, I will not judge you. If you screw up without the best of intentions, I still will not judge you.

Bad jokes, inappropriate jokes, saying the wrong thing or just plain old getting it wrong, I will not judge you.

If you love yourself, hate yourself, mock yourself or wish you were anyone but you, I will not judge you.

I am in no position to judge you nor should I ever assume that I am. I can’t and I won’t. You are who you are and who you are is a result of who you’ve always been. I, therefore, can pass no judgment without knowing you since birth and so I won’t. Human nature or not, I will not judge you.

It’s not my place.

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The Great Bike Giveaway – Have a special child that needs a special bike? This is for you!

My son, Cameron, is going to turn 8 this summer and still can’t handle a bicycle very well. He can ride up and down the sidewalk with training wheels but is still struggling with it. He has autism, which most people think of as being a purely mental disorder but the truth is that in some cases, it can render a person’s muscles very unwieldy. He looks very awkward when he runs, he has a hard time with games of coordination and has not yet mastered the art of playing catch. All of these things, by the way, his 5 year old younger brother can do quite well.

The Friendship Circle is doing something totally awesome in creating The Great Bike Giveaway. With a name like that, you expect that perhaps they’re just giving away some mountain bikes or something but actually, they are giving away very very special bikes that are specially built for those that have very special needs.

And not just one kind of bike that might help but several very different bikes that will suit very different needs! That means that what ever your little one, or even yourself, might be in need of, there’s a good chance that one of these bikes will be just what you’re looking for.

There’s only about a week left so you have to get moving quick… go to The Great Bike Giveaway, choose the bike that looks right for you and submit your entry into the contest. Once you’ve done that, get some family, friends and social media circles to nominate you and you’re in.

By Friendship Circle

By Friendship Circle

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Autism from a Father’s Point of View celebrates 1000 Ausome Things #AutismPositivity2013

autismpositivity2013As part of the Autism Positivity flash blog event, we bloggers are encouraged to list 1000 positive aspects about autism to combat the waves and waves of negativity through out the media and such… but instead of just 1000, I thought it would be better to aim higher. How about 1,000,000? 10,000,000? How about 140,000,000?

Because if the latest estimates are to be believed from the CDC, which puts autism near 1 in 50 school children, then out of 7,000,000,000 on the planet, we have a lot to be positive about.

Every single child is priceless. There is no limit to a chlid’s value and that value certainly does not diminish because of any disorder, disability or otherwise “defect” that we can possibly think they may have. A child is a child. And you can’t place a value on a child. And every single one of those children has a positive influence on this world.

With love, with care and with a warm smile from every new face they see, their life will continue to grow in a positive way.

It doesn’t matter if a child can’t speak or play in sports or is unable to learn the things we want them to learn… they still deserve the love and respect that any child would.

Even when we think of the positives with children, we think about what they teach us, open our eyes to, what they are able to discover and do for themselves and how they impact not just our own world but the entire world and it occurs to me that, these are things. Abstract, sure, but still things. With or without these things, the child is still a beautiful, unique and priceless child.

I don’t need to recognize that my child has made me a better parent to be positive. I don’t need to be aware of how much my child has and will continue to over come in his life to be positive. I really don’t need anything or for there to be anything happening.

All I need, all I will ever need are my children. So long as I have them, I have everything I need in the world to be positive about. What they do or don’t do, teach me or don’t teach me… these are instances in time. They are things in their own right to be positive about. But they’re not what I need to be positive.

When I close my eyes and I think about it, I recognize that my child isn’t 1 in 50. My child is 1 in 7,000,000,000.

And that, my friend, is something worth celebrating.

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Somewhere along the way, I became a parent. This is how I know it’s true.

Somewhere along the way I became a parent. I’m not entirely sure why but all of a sudden, it just hit me like a ton of bricks.

Was it when my first child was born? No, I don’t think so. At that point, I became a dad, sure. But for the most part, waking up to bring the baby to his mom for feedingss and changing some diapers really didn’t make me a real parent. I was responsible for this little, very much dependent and fragile life but that wasn’t it.

Perhaps it was I had to start putting my name in the “parent or guardian” forms at schools and hospitals… I remember looking at those forms and thinking to myself, I can’t believe my name goes here. But even that wasn’t really it. That was just paperwork.

I know it wasn’t when my son was diagnosed with autism because that made me feel like anything but a parent. I was feeling more lost and scared than most times in my life that I could remember. I got over it quickly though as I learned more and my son impressed me all along the way but still, that wasn’t it.

I really thought the moment that I became a parent was when my boys would do something wrong and I’d open my mouth only to hear words that I thought only my mother would ever say. I was suddenly watching my own childhood from a totally different perspective. I had, in effect, put myself in my mothers shoes and at that point, I thought to myself, “wow, I must really be a parent now”. That was a very good start but that wasn’t it either. That was me playing the role, I think. It slapped the thought across my face but it still hadn’t sunk in quite yet I think.

Dead: 12-year old Alex Swigart saved his dad's life after waking he and his girlfriend up when their mobile home caught fire

Dead: 12-year old Alex Swigart saved his dad’s life after waking he and his girlfriend up when their mobile home caught fire

Then, as I became more involved in the autism community and started getting more and more information fed to me by an ever evolving social media, I started to come across stories like this one, where a 12 year old boy with autism saved his family, only to die in the fire himself. It’s not the story itself that got to me, although it is tragic. It’s one sentence in the story, that made my heart sink. It was this:

Fighting back tears he said: ‘I yelled inside the window and I heard him call to me, “Daddy I can’t breathe!”‘

I didn’t read the rest of the article beyond that until the next day. I couldn’t. All I could think about what how hard that must have been, to hear his child… the most precious and important thing in his life ever, calling out to him, in pain, and being powerless to do anything about it.

I’ve read stories like this before. It never hurt me like this.

It’s been happening a lot lately too. Stories that would have saddened me before but never felt like a knife in my heart like it does too, are crossing my path at an ever increasing rate.

Loss: Autistic 6-year-old Dylan Hockley died in the arms of his special education teacher in another classroom; his parents have set up a memorial fund of their own to help children with autism and special needs

Loss: Autistic 6-year-old Dylan Hockley died in the arms of his special education teacher in another classroom; his parents have set up a memorial fund of their own to help children with autism and special needs

Another example was the Sandy Hook shootings, in which the entire ordeal was a tragedy… but what really hit home the hardest was little Dylan Hockley, a 6 year old boy with autism. In this story, once again, I was reading it with a heavy heart as I normally would but then I got to this part and I just felt crushed:

“He said that Anne Marie Murphy had been found with her arms wrapped around Dylan … that is what we had hoped for — in a very strange sort of way to hope for something.”

“She loved him and he loved her and she would’ve looked after him no matter what,” she says, fighting back tears. “To know that he was with her, and that he wasn’t alone, that gives you a huge peace of mind … to know that he was loved even in those last moments.”

I can’t stop seeing, in my mind, what it must have been like to be terrified, holding this little boy that is terrified too, despite having no idea what is going on and to know what’s coming and then…

I keep putting myself in these people’s shoes. I can’t help it anymore. I can’t not see the little innocent faces with so much life left to live and their parents that were powerless to help them.

I can’t imagine what those people are going through but it doesn’t stop me from imagining it’s me anyway. It doesn’t stop me from thinking about how much it hurts just to think about that happening to me… to my own child.

That’s how I know I’m a parent. That’s how I know I’m not just some guy looking after some kids.

I can’t read these stories like I used to. I can’t watch the videos like I used to. It doesn’t just sadden me anymore. It hurts. I really really hurts.

Before I had children, even for a while after, when other parents would tell me that your perspective of the world would change, that the way you feel about a lot of things would change, I thought I understood. I didn’t.

I can’t read the last words of a dying child anymore. Not without shedding a tear, or more. Not without profound feelings that will affect me for a while after.

That’s how I know I’m a parent.

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