Join Us in Remembering the Lost.

Tomorrow marks the beginning of Autism Awareness Month.

I’ve already told you that the newest numbers (from four-year-old data) from the CDC are 1 in 68 children being diagnosed on the spectrum.

There are other numbers that people need to know though.

  • Roughly half, or 48%, of children with an ASD attempt to elope from a safe environment, a rate nearly four times higher than their unaffected siblings
  • In 2009, 2010, and 2011, accidental drowning accounted for 91% total U.S. deaths reported in children with an ASD ages 14 and younger subsequent to wandering/elopement.
  • More than one third of ASD children who wander/elope are never or rarely able to communicate their name, address, or phone number
  • Two in three parents of elopers reported their missing children had a “close call” with a traffic injury
  • 32% of parents reported a “close call” with a possible drowning
  • Wandering was ranked among the most stressful ASD behaviors by 58% of parents of elopers

I’m choosing to start off this Autism Awareness Month with these facts because it’s a scary reality for families living with autism.  Too many children have lost their lives.  Autism can be deadly.  In 2008, Danish researchers found that the mortality rate among the autism population is double that of the general population.  And as more and more of our children get diagnosed with autism, there will be more and more tragedies.

I’m not trying to use scare tactics on you.  I’m only trying to get the facts out there and make people realize that autism needs to be a priority in our country.  

Brian doesn’t technically run from situations, but he does wander.  He likes to think he is very independent, like most 9 year olds.  If he needs to go somewhere, and doesn’t have the ability to communicate that to me, he goes. One year while camping near Old Orchard Beach with my sisters and mother, we lost Brian for five minutes.  There was seven of us all together between the two sites we had rented.   Brian was there with us, and then all of a sudden he wasn’t.  No one had seen him leave.  We found him in the public restrooms.  He needed to use the bathroom but because he couldn’t tell us, he just went.  It was the scariest five minutes of my life.

Another time, when he was just a preschooler, he wriggled out of my hand and bolted across a parking lot to get to the ocean.  I was running after him at full speed yelling his name.  In slow motion, I watched a car back into him.  It actually hit him!  The car was moving so slow backing out that it didn’t even knock him over, just sort of nudged him. I don’t think he even registered what happened.  I did.   I cried.  I had an anxiety attack that lasted the rest of the day.

Brian has never successfully answered a stranger who asks, “What’s your name?”, without me prompting him to do so.  He doesn’t know my name.  He doesn’t know our phone number.  I’m also pretty sure he would go with anyone that would give him a lollipop.  Stranger danger is a concept lost on him, but a very real fear of mine.  He has no fears.  He loves water.  We have all the red flags.

Every time a story breaks of another child with autism who ran away, my heart breaks.  I cheer when they end with a happy ending.  However, it seems they end with a sad one more often than not.  And then I cry.  Every time.

To remember those children a fellow blogger, who goes by the name Jill Smo, has created a facebook event: Candlelight Vigil for Autistic Children Who Lost Their Lives After Wandering.  This event is solely meant to raise awareness and remember those children respectfully.  Please consider joining and lighting a candle tomorrow,  for the loss of these beautiful souls.


Also, please check out the National Autism Association.  They have many facts regarding wandering (the facts above were taken from their website) as well as programs such as the Big Red Safety Box that provides tools to help prevent wandering.

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Heather Nelson

About Heather Nelson

Heather resides in Rockland where she is busy juggling life as a newlywed, a mom to two boys (one of which who has autism), a part time job in direct sales, and a full-time job as a pediatric occupational therapy assistant. She has a love for live music, karaoke, and cheering on the underdogs.