Tag Archives | danger

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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The scariest part of going grocery shopping with our son

Today my wife took my boys shopping for groceries and as always, it can be tiring keeping an eye on them, answering all their questions, stopping them from running around, from grabbing/touching everything and so on and so forth.

But what proved to be, and continues to be the most difficult aspect is the parking lot. It’s also the scariest.

parking lot

Danger everywhere

The parking lot is scary enough just because children are children… they don’t recognize the dangers as well, they aren’t as aware of their surroundings as well, they simply aren’t in control of themselves as well.

What makes it so much worse for a child with #Autism is that they lack the ability to focus and to maintain disciplined motor skills.

A parking lot presents a lot of stimulation to overwhelm a young child’s mind, with people everywhere, cars either moving or sitting still, lights, the weather, not knowing where to go, the smells… plus, many children see it as a big area to play in.

For a child with Autism, it can overwhelm them just as much as any area inside the store except that a parking lot has a lot more dangers.

While walking towards the store, my wife had both of my boys holding onto the cart that she had grabbed, this way they’re always close. However, as a truck slowly crawled up along side them, Cameron still did what he often does when excited and overwhelmed… he walked with his arms flailing wildly at his sides and took steps as if the ground was wavering beneath him.

As the truck was nearly beyond them, he took one step wider to the side than normal, as if falling over.. my wife yanked him back quickly because if she hadn’t, his foot would have been run over by the truck’s back tire.

Imagine, you’re doing everything right with keeping your children close, they have a hand on the cart, you’re watching everything and in less than a second, a single wild step could mean a trip to the hospital, or worse.

Often when people talk about grocery shopping with child that has Autism, the discussion focuses around meltdowns, over stimulation and other parents being judgmental. Really though, we need to recognize and remember that getting in and out of the store is the most dangerous part and needs to be handled with care.

Here are some tips, that we’ve learned through trial and error, on getting through the parking lot safely.

  1. Grab a cart as soon as you can after leaving your vehicle. Then:
    a. Put your child(ren) in the cart for a fun bumpy ride.
    b. Put your child(ren) between you and the handle, so that your arms are around them. Let them push the cart to help out, but keep your hands on theirs or at least on the handle
    c. Make sure your children are making contact with the cart at all times so that, even if something unexpected does happen, you’re at least close enough to make a quick reaction.
  2. If you have no cart, keep your child between you and the parked cars so that the cars in motion are along side you, not them.
  3. Don’t take no for an answer. Children with Autism will be very reluctant to hold your hand but that’s just too bad. Do it anyway. Better a meltdown in the store than an accident in the parking lot.

My son was almost hurt today and my wife did everything right… in fact, it’s a good thing she did or else he very likely would have been injured.

The less your child is capable of focusing, the more you have to! Be aware at all times, do the things you need to do at all times. The consequences of a single moment in time that you let it slide could be too unbearable to think about.

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