My daughter is Mikaela Lynch

20 May

Today autism bloggers are joining forces to honor the life and love of Mikaela Lynch, the nine-year-old California girl with autism who went missing and was later found drowned near her home. It is with even heavier hearts that we post today as we have also lost Owen Black in Florida. Please join Sunday at Adventures in Extreme Parenthood today as we honor a beautiful little girl we lost much too soon.

I watched in horror last week as events unfolded in the California search for Mikaela Lynch. All I could think is, “This is my daughter. My Princess.”

Like Mikaela, my daughter is non-verbal with very little modified sign language. Like Mikaela, my daughter wears diapers. Like Mikaela, my daughter has been known to take her clothes off. Like Mikaela, my daughter is drawn to water. The Princess is not a text-book eloper, she prefers to stay near those she knows, but she does have her moments. And the adage, “when a child with autism goes missing, look in the water” rings dangerously in my ears.

And my daughter has gotten out. One time. I had to go to the bathroom. The front door was locked at the dead bolt and the doorknob. And like that, she had gotten out. A neighbor driving home knew her, her husband stopped the car and she got out and walked her home. It can happen in less than a minute. It can happen to anyone with a typically developing child or not.

When a tragedy occurs the media blames the parents. “Obviously they are delinquents as they KNEW this child has autism and yet they directed their attention away momentarily. They went to the bathroom; went to sleep at night; looked at their other child; blinked.” But this can happen to the most vigilant parent. Even with multiple fail-safes in place.

The other thing both the media and parents everywhere do during these tragedies is say, “how can we prevent this from happening again?” But here we are dealing with autism and the answers are as varied as the individuals.

Here is what our family is doing to ensure our Princess has the best chance possible to avoid tragedy like this one:

1) Adaptive swimming lessons–perhaps one day we can get swim lessons required to be covered by insurance or by an autism task force so they are affordable for parents. Children with autism are drawn to water, we know this by the disproportionate drownings in children with autism. At least with swim lessons, these children have a fighting chance.

2) Making The Princess known in our neighborhood. She was returned home because a neighbor knew her and knew she had autism. If the community knows a child’s name and knows said child has autism (and may not respond to said name or be verbal etc) there is a much better chance that tragedies can be averted.

3) Investing in Project Lifesaver or similar technology. The Princess is FAST when she sets her mind to something. This type of technology is invaluable to a family like ours.

4) Being in contact with local law enforcement. The Princess’ school (along with all elementary schools) was given a student resource officer from our local sheriff’s department after the tragedy in Newtown, CT and he has gone out of his way to meet the special needs students and families and familiarize himself with autism and various other developmental and intellectual disorders. In this way, he has helped us to realize that we need to be familiar with local law enforcement and help ensure they are educated to work with individuals like autism and better understand their unique challenges. We cannot assume they will be able to help in a situation they are not trained nor prepared for and we cannot just assume someone else will do it. We must do our part too.

On Wednesday, I stopped in grief and cried. Mikaela had become The Princess to me. And when I got the Princess off the school bus, I looked into her big brown eyes, her smile with big adult teeth pushing baby teeth around, her crooked King-styled bangs, and I kissed her and held her tight. I told her how much I loved her. And my heart ached that in Clearlake, CA, another mother could never do that with her sweet girl. There were no words for the grief that coursed through my body. No way I can explain to someone without a child with these challenges the pain of the knife twisting in my heart over and over, deeper and deeper.

My fear, my sadness, my anger, my grief, while very real, is nothing compared to that of Mikaela’s parents and now of sweet Owen‘s family. In less than a week we have lost two children, on different coasts, to autism related behaviors that led to drowning. My heart is broken all over again. These children are my children. The Princess is one of many, many children you could see on your evening news and think, she could be ‘mine.’

Mikaela, Owen, we love you. We will not forget you or your families. Your beautiful smiles, your love strengthen and embolden us.

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2 Responses to “My daughter is Mikaela Lynch”

  1. Krystal May 20, 2013 at 10:01 am #

    You have me in tears. It could be your Princess. It could be my Buddy. my Silly. my Monkey. my Baby Girl….my heart is breaking all over again…thank you for your story.

  2. Esther May 24, 2013 at 6:47 pm #

    I also have a daughter who is autistic. She has the same characteristics as Mikaela…non-verbal, wears diapers and is highly attracted to water even though she can’t swim. Even though I have never met Mikaela, I felt so connected to her. My prayers go out to Mikaela and Owen’s families!

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