Have you ever been in the grocery store or the mall with your child and in a split second you turn around to discover that your kid isn't right there two steps behind you anymore? I know you have. I have. We all have. It happened to me last week. My heart leapt into my throat, I stiffened. My blood pressure rose and I could feel the cortisol begin to pump through my veins. I called out to Bird. Started rushing around the aisles. It'd been seconds but felt like hours. I called out again. This time she answered, "I'm here. Here I am." I exhaled. She's verbal. Thank gd she's verbal today. Your typically developing child likely is, too. But if you're raising a school- aged child with autism in the us, like 1 in 50 of us is, yours might not be verbal. Fear. Panic.
Have you ever heard of Mikaela Lynch? How about Owen Black? Drew Howell? They all had Autism and they all wandered away from their families one way or another and were all later found dead. They were all somebody's baby. If you have a child with Autism, you probably already know this. You probably followed their stories and refreshed the pages constantly just hoping for an update with good news. Did you know this is actually a fairly common thing in the Autism world? This happens all the time. ALL THE TIME. It's one of the very worst nightmares of those of us raising autistic kids. Every time we hear somebody's child is missing, we feel it as if it were our own. We feel that fear, that increased heart rate, that panic. We want to join the search crews, hug the parents, and find that baby safe and sound.
A few years ago, I got Little Bird an ID bracelet. Her speech is still very unclear and back then she might've tried to tell you her name, but there's very little chance a stranger would have any idea what she was saying.
Here are some other great resources for keeping our kids a little bit safer:
ID Tags Online
Tattoos With A Purpose
National Autism Association's Big RED Safety Toolkit
Those of us in the Autism community are hyper-aware and follow these stories with great interest. There has ben a beautiful outpouring of love for the families affected by these tragedies. Unfortunately, there have also been some very negative comments, some very irresponsible "reporting" and a whole lot of judging of the parents. Please remember that these were peoples' babies. They were loved and cared for and will be forever missed.