Beware Of This Hidden Danger of Autism

With World Autism Awareness Day fast approaching on April 2nd, along with April being Autism Awareness Month, I thought I would briefly touch on the dangers of autistic children and wandering. In future articles, I will be going into more depth about this topic and my goal for our community.

I would like to share a story of a woman that I know only through Facebook. I have encountered so many courageous people dealing with autism in so many different ways. All of these people I now call friends and have shared their stories of triumph and heartache. Even though we all may be from different parts of the world, with different skin color, and different religious beliefs, we all have one thing in common: AUTISM. I am blessed to have encountered all these people; they understand me like no other. I thank them and love them all for being a part of my journey, as I am a part of theirs.

Children with autism are often prone to wandering, fascinated by water, and unaware of the danger.

Autism Awareness

Here is Sheila’s story.

On July 27th 2010, Sheila went to work. Her adult daughter was watching Mason. Sheila and her husband Kenneth were extremely cautious about securing the house because they knew Mason had NO fear and had an uncanny ability to open locked doors.

However, on this day, the temperature reached 105 degrees and the air conditioner was broken, so Sheila had bought some window fans. Apparently, Mason got past one of the fans on the window sill and climbed out.

After getting the call, Sheila raced home, calling 911 and several neighbors, imploring them to check a nearby pond that she knew would attract Mason. But no one checked the pond.

She emotionally recounts what happened next:

” I went directly there, got out of my car and looked at the water. The first thing I saw was something pink floating in the water. For an instant, I thought it was a piece of paper, but then I knew. I just started screaming Mason’s name over and over as I dove in and pulled him out. I threw him up on the bank. His lips and nose were blue and his eyes were closed. I started CPR and all that came out of his mouth was water. A policeman was about a hundred yards from me. He had driven past the pond and headed up to the neighbor’s house. He raced over and took over CPR. I ran back to my car screaming, ‘NO, no, no,no……’ I knew Mason was gone forever.”

She continues:

“Unless you have a special needs child that wanders, I think it is hard for anyone to grasp the relationship that develops between parent and child. Mason was the center of my world. I revolved around his needs and wants. Our household was one big dance all designed to keep him safe. He literally was my joy. He was in my arms or by my side every second that I was home.”

Mason was only missing for seventeen minutes.

These stories are way too common in the autism community. To protect your child from wandering:

~Add locks to doors that are high up and beep when the door is opened.

~GPS style devices

~Swimming lessons. It’s hard for autistic children to comprehend, but it is always worth the try; it may save his life.

~Train the family dog or therapy dog to track your child and/or prevent wandering (Therapy dogs will be in a future article).

~The National Autism Society offers a Red Box. Enclosed are two door alarms and signs that read STOP that can be posted near doors and windows.

Most importantly, BE AWARE!  This CAN happen and it can turn deadly.

You can read more on Sheila Medlam and her mission to help others by clicking HERE.

Rachel Dannemiller
Author: Rachel Dannemiller

Rachel is a lifelong resident of Geauga County. She is married to Tom and has a son Jason, and a dog named Harley. Rachel and her family are devoted to bringing autism awareness to the community and they are organizing the local Autism Speaks event in Burton this year.