Today, the family of Mikaela Renee Lynch found themselves in the depths of one of the worst horrors that can be visited upon them. Their beautiful daughter, just 9 years old, had wandered away from their home on Sunday. Like J, she has autism. Today, she was found in a creek, deceased. 

This isn’t the sort of subject I would usually write about. This family’s grief, their sorrow and what they are going through is what I count to be amongst my greatest fears for my little boy. He’s just shy of 3 and already a bolter/runner. If he could work the doorknob, he’d be out the front door I have no doubt. He has his own agenda in this world and if there’s a body of water larger than a puddle, he’s right there despite having no knowledge of how to functionally swim or deal with said body of water outside of being within my arms or in a safe bathtub. 

There are people in this world who will blame the Lynch family. I know it. I’ve seen the ugly that is in this world and I have to acknowledge it. I don’t. I can’t. People in this community are likely to be similar in thinking to myself I would hope. Our children, our loved ones – they cannot live in a vacuum. We cannot button them up in safe, soft rooms away from the world. The world deserves to know them and they deserve to know it. We can put up every lock, every barrier, every safeguard but things can, and do, sometimes happen. It’s in these moments we pray for the best outcome and gird our hearts for the worst. It’s in these moments we stand by, ready to support those who face the darkest news.

I have a few resources for those of you who might read my rambling and want to know more about how to keep your loved one with autism safe. There is no 100% fool proof method in this world, but every little bit can help.

AWAARE Collaboration: The Autism Wandering Awareness Alerts Response and Education Collaboration offers great educational materials as well as safety items. It is the collaboration of six major autism foundations and a source of invaluable information and tools.

The Flutie Foundation Safe and Secure Project: The Doug Flutie Foundation works with LoJack SafetyNet and local fencing companies to help families in need keep their children safe. This is very New England-centric.

LoJack SafetyNet: LoJack offers a bracelet program that helps track children or adults prone to elopement/wandering. When emergency responders are contacted they trigger the signal, tracking it to bring your loved one home. Not the most inexpensive of things but if you have a child or adult in your life who is prone to getting away, it may be worth its weight in gold.

I could probably sit here all night posting links to help keep our families safe. My son will have his dog once we finish fundraising, a dog trained to track him should he elope, and I equip my son with two dogtags located on his shoe: One reads his name, the fact he has autism and limited speech, and my number. I had it made here. The other is a MedicAlert tag for emergency responders so that they can have access to his medical history immediately and know he has the delays he has plus other pertinent information if care is needed. These are just some measures to ensure safety but I am sure the great parents I have interacted both online and off have some awesome measures they take too.

I know the Lynch family may never see this but my thoughts and prayers are with you and yours. You loved your daughter in the time she was with you and I know nothing can remove the blame we, as parents, take on ourselves whenever anything happens to or with our children. I cannot tell you that you’re going to be okay tomorrow because you might never be the kind of okay you once knew ever again. You’ll find a new way to be. You’ll learn a new way of living. We, as a community, will be here for you along the way.