I assume you’ve heard, or read about James, the 7 year old the Nova Scotia boy who followed his dog into a wooded area, and was missing for two days during blizzard conditions, was found miraculously alive,was medi-vaced, and died in hospital of extreme hypothermia. If you have not the link is below.
When reading the story on the Winnipeg Free Press website I read the following comment written by Bensmyson:
Posted by: bensmyson
December 8, 2009 at 10:24 AM
The harsh reality of autism is that it causes death. In the US, one in 91 children have been diagnosed with autism. Twenty years ago it was one in 10,000. As the father of a child diagnosed with autism my heart breaks with the loss of little James. There are no stats on the numbers of children with autism that fall to a similar fate, but all too often we hear of children wandering off in the blink of an eye.
Remember this the next time someone tells you that autism isn’t a deadly disorder and correct them. It kills and seriously injures many more than you can possibly imagine.
And it got me to thinking about what all the implications of an Autism Diagnosis are. And, today while driving Petra to swimming I listened to a CBC piece on Project Lifesaver prompted of course by James’ sad news. Project lifesaver is a program where your wanderer wears a bracelet or ankle band and through RFID they can track your lost loved one. It cost about 7000 dollars Canadian to buy the tracking equipment and about two days to train volunteers or employees. Ontario has a program, Saskatchewan does not, of course.
So where am I going here? Well, right here to our family of course, if you read this blog you know me, you know Elijah has autism, and you can guess this story affects us on a more personal level. Our headline could easily read:
Elijah Anderson, 4, remembered as ‘nice little boy’.
Our son is a wanderer, we lost him once in Chicago, and it was really easy to imagine that he had been hit by a car. Elijah can talk, but if your a stranger, he won’t answer questions, and put him in a stressful situation and he couldn’t tell you if he was lost, cold, what his name is, who his parents are, or how old he is, let alone, his address or telephone number.
When we moved here to the country we we very afraid of him wandering off into the open space of the fields and becoming lost for days. We looked into some personal tracking devices and found that unfortunately the technology available for personal use is somewhat dismal. Luckily we don’t have the traffic issue here, perhaps the biggest danger he faced in Chicago, but we do face him being lost in a very isolated area. Also, this last summer we’ve been lucky enough that he sticks to our paths and yard, not wandering towards the roads often. Though we don’t face a huge traffic issue the main traffic around here is gravel trucks going by at speeds exceeding the speed limit, and Elijah vs. a gravel truck, is going to be a losing scenario. It’s a fear that sticks with me often, when he doesn’t respond when I call him, I’m immediately worried. I don’t have the luxury that other parents do in thinking he has to be around here somewhere, he couldn’t have gone far, or he knows not to go in the pump house. I have to think what’s the most perilous direction he could have gone off in and start there.
It would be nice if Saskatchewan had a Project Lifesaver program, but I can’t even begin to hold my breath on that one, I really think it could save Elijah’s life. But, what perhaps I find most upsetting is that most Canadians didn’t even begin to think that their community is missing this life saving service until they heard James’ story. A little boy had to die. I don’t find it alarming, it’s the way things go, things get fixed things after learning from our mistakes.
I’ve been thinking about James’ family, how heart broken they are, and my heart and soul go out to them. Selfishly though. I do think of how their story could have so easily have been mine, and still could be. I hope we’re spared, we do all we can to be, but it’s still all so easily gone.
Anyway, not a piece to make you feel sorry for me, just something I’ve been reflecting on today, as I’m sure many Auti. parents are.