I read another heart wrenching story today about a little boy with autism named Mason. Just over a month ago, he got out of a window while his big sister was watching him, and his parents were at work. He ran across the street to a pond. He drowned. His mother is now on a national mission to get the Mason alert going. Similar to the Amber alert, but for children and adults with autism who have but few precious minutes before finding themselves in dangers unknown. Her post included this paragraph:
"They will walk into a busy intersection, despite traffic. They will walk through an open front door, not knowing if a predator is on the other side. They will hide in tight, enclosed spaces, not realizing the danger of suffocation or heat stroke. They will walk down a mile of railroad tracks, not realizing the train they love so much can kill them, and they will wade into the middle of a muddy pond, never thinking that they can't breathe the muddy water."...Sheila Medlam
It took my breath away, and tears welled up in my eyes for another countless time. My son has escaped from our house with me in it. My friend Kate's darling Emily has taken off the split second her mom turned her eyes away. Smart little Logan has figured out how to undo his parents precautions. I love all these children, I cry over them, I am anxious over their well being. But my darkest, most paralyzing fear is that he will drown. He loves water. Loves it. He loves the motion of it, the feel, and in all forms. Soft rain, a warm bath, rushing rivers, still lakes and ponds. I can hear it pouring outside, and my mind wanders to the geese pond a few blocks away. The culverts down the street. I get up and check and recheck the locks. Most parents will never know the restless sleep that moms with children with autism suffer. Every noise violently jars us awake, each noise taking away our very breath, the panic that takes over until you lay eyes on them, and you take an enormous breath in, and let out a ragged sigh of relief. I will never stop thinking about Shiela Medlam and the terror, anger, and pain she must have felt in that moment, and the agony she is going through now.
What I can do, and what I did do, was sneak down to Chandler's room and take the toy from his clenched fist, and set it on the nightstand. Take the small, rough planet pillow from under his head and replace it with a soft, fluffy pillow and run my fingers over his blonde, spiky hair. Feel his back moving rhythmically with his breathing, kiss the warmth of his angelic face, and wipe the tears from my eyes and whisper "I love you baby". I know I am not God. I have made deals with him to protect my son. I have given podium style lectures to my teenager and his friends. I have shouted from my mountaintop the importance of safety and autism, and wonder if it's ever going to be enough....To protect him, to make me feel more secure...well, my friends it is one thirty in the morning and sleep won't be gracious tonight.