This last week, the Autism community was rocked within a space of only a few days with the drowning deaths of three children. Mikaela's death hit us hard. She disappeared on Mother's Day and I believe that most of us sat with our fingers crossed, waiting for her return. She was found in a creek. Owen Black's death hit very close to home for me, personally. He's from the state I now live in and died in the city/state I'm originally from. In the waters I grew up around. Drew Howell died in water, too...
These could have been any of our children. Any of their parents could have been us. I've been afraid, many times, that one of these children would be my own.
The Lynch family also came under fire last week from a "journalist"... this is a reason I am writing what I am. The journalist inferred that the family had been irresponsible by having Mikaela near water.
To that journalist and anyone that may want to judge a family with an Autistic or otherwise "impaired" child, let me tell you: we don't stop living our lives because of our child's diagnosis. We go on vacations. We go to the water, especially if our child loves it. We go to the bathroom, this means we take our eyes off of our child for a few minutes. We install screens on vents so that wasps do not enter homes. This also involves removing our immediate attention from our children.
Don't judge any of us until you've walked in our shoes.
My sons are verbal, with one being NT and one being Autistic. We've lost each one at least once. Every time, it was when we, actually, me, was distracted for a second... minute... or, in one case, felt safe lying down for a nap while Bay, my neurotypical child, was asleep (I thought), too. Each time, it was from me letting down my guard for a second or a minute. This happens.
Morgan once bolted from me at a crowded water park. A water park. He'd just taken off his life vest, too. Thankfully, security was able to find him by the wave pool, leaning over the edge and peering at the rolling waves. He learned to swim officially that summer. He can even hold his breath underwater now.
But even with that learned skill, I'm scared. And the fear keeps me up at night.
We live outside of a high crime city, surrounded by water. I hold tight to my children's hands when go anywhere, but especially Morgan. I don't like to go into New Orleans unless my husband is with me because I'm afraid. I'm scared that Morgan will give his information (a newly acquired skill)out to anyone because he's so trusting. I'm terrified my son will happily walk off with a stranger who will do great harm to him. Or, walk into a bayou, or Lake Pontchartrain and hit his head... He loves water so much. He knows to never enter a pool alone, but would he know to never enter a lake? A pond? A bayou? Would his fear of alligators and snakes keep him away? Last summer, my mom and I had to keep reminding him to stay out of the pool unless someone was out there...
To me, worrying about Morgan being in water is a relatively valid fear. He's loved water as long as I can remember. His favorite stim is playing in sand for hours and it's even better if the sand is, you guessed it, next to water.
What I fear is the fear itself. I fear that my son will wander off in a crowd, at a store, in a park, on the beach. I fear that soon my will outgrow me and I will not be able to hold onto his hand as tight and my grasp will break. Or that, when I send him to the bathroom, he'll tell our home address to someone who will do something bad with it.
I fear the unknown because tweak the situation in any of those children's deaths last week... and it could be my son on CNN.
I cannot imagine the horror these families went through because I've only ever caught a glimpse of it. The worst that has ever happened to me is when my son Bailey slipped out of a dead bolted door during nap time to chase a neighbor's dog up a hill across the street. I was lucky that day, very lucky. A neighbor who not know me saw my child playing with that dog and called 9-1-1 to report a found child. My own dog, Roxy, earned her keep that day by first trying to pull Bailey down the hill (the neighbor thought our dog was attacking him) and then by barking at my back door to alert me. The twenty minutes my son was missing was harrowing.
But what if he, at the age of two, had wandered down the the nearby spring? What if he had wandered out onto the busy street beyond the spring? Those were my thoughts that day. He couldn't swim and was so little. He also couldn't speak at the time due to age.
Thankfully, he was found, dirty and happy.
I live in fear that one day, I won't be so lucky with his brother.