I am the mother of two children on the Spectrum. Two. Both are very curious about the world they live in. Both like to wander. They are children. When I wrote in my last blog about Mikaela Lynch, two more stories of children with special needs who wandered away and died because drowning made the news. For many of us parents, our hearts again dropped deep into our chests. We mourn with these parents, as we know. We have been there at one point in our lives, the fear when our children have wandered. It does not make us bad parents. We are overwhelmed parents.
I will share two stories that gave me my heart attacks. I share these stories because I want parents, especially those of Mikaela, Owen and Drew to know I am with them and understand.
My daughter was three when she wandered off.My husband was deployed to Iraq that spring. Walked right out of our fenced in backyard, across a busy street and went over to the daycare. I had walked inside my house to put a load of laundry in. I thought since the back gate was locked it was safe. This was the day she figured out how to unlock the gate. I thought at first she had come back inside the house. I spent about 15 minutes looking for her. Tore my house apart. I walked outside and saw the Daycare and thought she might have wandered over there. She did indeed do just that. The police were called, I was written up for being a neglectful parent and had Family Advocacy showing up at my door. We got the Autism Diagnosis a couple of months later. Now she has out grown her need to wander.
My youngest hasn't. We have done everything in our power to make sure he doesn't get out of the house without us. He wandered away during a Base Fourth of July celebration again with my husband deployed. He crawled out the little tent I had put him down for a nap in. Asked people who were with us, to watch over him as I took my eldest to the bathroom. Unnoticed he crawl out and wandered. I had come back from the bathroom, went to check on him and he was gone. I was fortunate to get an MP who had just picked him up, remembering him as I was giving him the description of my child and just brought him to the first aid stand.
Both times I wanted to die right there on the spot. Both times part of me died a little. Here I thought I was the worst parent on the planet. I came to realize, that I am not the worst parent. I am a parent that does her best with what she has. I am going to make mistakes. But I have certainly learned from them.
Autism and wandering go hand in hand. We need to spread the awareness. Three children have lost their lives in a span of a week. And as the summer months approach, more kids will be outside playing.