Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Our Guardian & Thoughts on Avonte's Law

Every child with autism needs a guardian - we are blessed to have one furry guardian and one plastic transmitter "guardian."  Here is one of our stories about the wandering we deal with and think about every day. 

I don't know if I have posted before about Mr. O's tracking bracelet from Project Lifesaver, but I have been thinking a lot about it lately.  Mainly for two reasons.  

First of all, and mainly because of the Avonte story.  If you don't know about Avonte, he was a 14 year old boy with autism who went missing and died - they found his remains months later.  Poor sweet baby boy.  The other reason is because my boy broke his tracking bracelet and so he hasn't  been wearing it.  His running has been limited lately,  but since he is the master of surprises, this is not the best situation.  We've been waiting to hear about getting it fixed, but tick tock, the clock is ticking.

This past weekend, my anxieties were realized when Mr. O took off.  He went out in the snow to play with his siblings, and they all came in after a bit - but he tricked me and ran right back out the door and headed for the woods.  These are the woods, and while we are not talking about a deep, scary forest, there's still the water to worry about, and the fact that it was freezing and snowing added to the fun.

Of course I grabbed my coat, had my boots on already (moms with runners know that shoes should be on at all times, just in case) and ran out the door after him, but he was out of sight by the time I got out the door.  I didn't even take time to grab hat and mittens, but he is 12 years old and just that fast, stinker.

My awesome middle son and I headed into the woods and saw that since it was snowing, Mr. O left fresh tracks for us to follow.  Thank goodness, at least we knew which way to run.  As we got out of our yard and away from the hodge podge of other footprints, I noticed another set of footprints next to Mr. O's tracks.  Paw prints.  We followed the tracks through the woods, past the park, into the other side of our neighborhood and then right past our own street and into the next neighborhood.  I was FREEZING and snowing hard.  My boy was dressed for the weather, but still, this was not the kind of weather for a kid to be lost in. 

Then my 15 year old took off running - and I saw them.  Sweet relief flooded my senses.  

Our dog had slipped out the door without anyone even noticing.  She stayed by his side the whole way.  As soon as she saw us, she came bounding forward, smiling her dog smile because she knew Mr. O would be safe.  We almost didn't get a dog, because Mr. O had a deathly fear of them (and still does fear other dogs).  On this day, I felt such gratitude for the rescue that shared this wonderful guardian with us, and such gratitude to my good girl who kept the boy safe while he was running away in the snow.

Good dog!

The moral of the story?  There are a few morals of this story, the way I see it.  

1.  Kids with autism often "wander" - which sounds like a peaceful stroll, but can actually be a full speed chase, can happen when you least expect it, and they are not dumb so they will fool you, unlock doors, sneak away when you aren't looking or duck out a window.  Sometimes you do everything right and they still get away.  Tracking bracelets are  MUST.  Avonte's law needs to pass!  Every child who might wander away should have a tracking device available.  I don't understand why this is even a question.

2.  Dogs are great.  Rescue dogs are the best.  If you can find a way for your child with autism to have a pet, I think you should do it.   We opted for a young dog instead of a puppy because she was already trained and we could see her temperament - puppies are adorable but they are too  much work for this autism mama, and with so many older dogs in shelters, why not look there first?  You will hit the jackpot - we did.

3.  I really need to get Mr. O's tracking  bracelet fixed.  I should know by now that just because he hasn't wandered in months, it doesn't mean he won't surprise me a run right out the door.  Yes, we found him quickly and yes he was safe, but what happens next time?  Time to put a little pressure on the people who have promised to fix it for the last few months.  I'm not good at that, but the time has come.

My thoughts continue to be with Avonte's family.   My heart hurts for them, and at the same time my admiration for them grows.  Only twenty four hours after Avonte's funeral, his mother and grandmother stood with Senator Charles Schumer as he proposed the new law that would provide children with autism the tracking bracelets.   They know all too well how important this is.  If Avonte had a bracelet, could they have saved him?  It pains me to think - what a different outcome if Avonte had this device that costs under $100 and then a few dollars a month to maintain.  How much money was spent hunting for him?  How much money is spent looking for other kids with autism who wander away?  Why doesn't every at risk kid (or adult) have a bracelet?  It is time for this to happen.

Not every child is blessed like my son, with teenage brothers to chase him and a furry guardian to follow him through the snow and keep him from harm.  But every child deserves a way to stay safe and be found.  Big thanks to Project Lifesaver for our tracking bracelet, and to Puppies & More Rescue and Angela at The Animal Orphanage of Voorhees, for providing us with an amazing guardian.  I hope Avonte's Law passes and we never lose another child in this way.  What are we waiting for?

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The End of a Weird Year

This past year was full of surprises.  Some good, some bad, some just ... surprising.  It has been a year of many changes, lots of growth and a few breakdowns along the way.  I don't have much more to share about the end of this year yet.  My mind is still spinning and when it stops, I might want to just leave this year behind and not revisit it.  Is that wrong?  Anyone else feel that way?  On to 2014 and hopefully it will be better than 2013, right?  

In any case, I have to share that I did finish my 365 project.  I had to fill in with iPhone pictures for part of the time since my camera had to go back to the mother ship to be repaired.  But the best camera is the one you have with you, right?  And I will be honest and say that I may have missed a day here and there and filled in with 2 shots from a better day.  Is that wrong?  Is it wrong that I keep asking if things are wrong and I don't really care about the answer to that question?  I guess we'll leave it up to the blog police to decide.

Here are some shots from the end of my 365.  I don't know if I learned much from the actual project, but having a year's worth of photos is definitely pretty neat, and I can see the progress I made over that time.  Plus it gives me a nice reminder of all that we did last year, good and bad.

Fun in the sun and a visit to the Statue of Liberty!

Lots of time spent at the farm and then back to school  (and then a trip to the beach the weekend after school started - of course).

Photography practice on many beautiful subjects.

Days at the US Open, piles of laundry 
and a visit with Grammy

The loss of Uncle Frank.

Many random photos from fall and winter.

Pictures of the boys.

And a whole bunch of my crazy girl.

And my final favorites:

Signing off with this shot of me, taken by my girl.  It makes me laugh every time, just wondering what that guy is thinking.  Probably something like, "She is crazy!"  And yes, that I am.  Looking forward to posting more in 2014, and I expect things will be as crazy as ever around here.

Peace out!