About a week ago I heard about Travis Stratton, a 4 year old autistic boy in California who went missing and drowned. There was only about a 3 hour period between his parents calling the police and when his body was found in a neighbor's swimming pool. My heart was shattered for this boy and his family. And honestly? I was angry. Because little 4 year old boys should not be drowning, but also because he was another in a too long line of names of autistic children who have died. I thought it would be a nice gesture to light a virtual candle in remembrance of the lives that have been lost, and so the Candlelight Vigil for Autistic Children Who Lost Their Lives After Wandering was born.
Child 1 is not what we call "a runner," I don't have to spend any time (at this point) worrying about his safety if I'm not keeping a constant eye on him. But this is my personal experience with autism, this is not the universal experience. I have way, way too many friends who spend literally every moment of their lives afraid of what might happen to their babies if they look away for just one second. My point in creating the vigil is not only to remember the people that have died, but to help show that there are many experiences with autism, and regardless of our personal opinions we all can agree that when children die it is an unimaginable tragedy.
If autism acceptance and awareness really is the true goal, we need to put egos aside and stand together. We all need to recognize that our personal experiences are not universal experiences, that each of us is unique in our own way, we all bring a different voice to the table, and working together is the only way to achieve this goal. And you can dislike me for the things I've written about in the past, but you can't just ignore this very real issue because I'm the one trying to bring awareness to it.
This isn't about me. This isn't about you. This is about all of us. Together.
Are you willing to acknowledge that acceptance and awareness is a group effort? I am. Will you join me?