Sunday, September 14, 2008

Father and Autistic Son Survive for 12 Hours in the Open Ocean

I just read this touching and terrifying story about a father and his 12-year-old autistic son who were lost at sea for 12 hours and both amazingly survived.

It reminds me of meeting a family with two profoundly autistic, nonverbal boys while we were all swimming at Waimea Bay in Oahu. The boys just absolutely LOVED swimming in the ocean, and the mom told me that the only down side to that is that they have to be watched every second because they are fearless.

They were on vacation in Hawaii for 3 weeks, and she told me that it was the first time they'd been on their own for that length of time without any help (child care, school, or other assistance). It was the beginning of their trip, and she was cautiously optimistic about their plans to visit Oahu and Kauai...but I could tell she was worried.

I also read this article yesterday about traveling with autistic children. As more and more children seem to be developing autism spectrum disorders and full-blown autism, it's a good reminder for all of us to be patient and supportive when we encounter these families. The mom in Hawaii--who I discovered actually grew up in Oregon and attended my high school--seemed grateful for a friendly face. I'm sure they get an awful lot of horrified looks.

One of her sons (they were 9 and 11) became very agitated at one point, and they finally had to leave. She told me that they had left his very expensive communication board at home, so it was difficult for her to know what he was saying. She was guessing that he was trying to tell her that he wanted to go back to Waikiki, where he really liked the waves. But she had no clue.

That was the day when I realized that I had NOTHING to complain about with my three very active, and at times exhausting, boys. As tiring as it can be sometimes, I must remember to count my blessings. They communicate their needs and desires extremely well.

A postscript to my blog post yesterday about "The Baby Turtle": Kieran has an "emerald" (which is a paste jewel he ripped off a costume), and he plans to sell it to raise money for his devil costume. I tried to tell him that it wasn't real...but in response he took a hammer to it, and informed me that it didn't break, so it must be real. When I asked him how much he planned to sell it for, he said "8 or 9."

"8 or 9 cents?" I asked hopefully.

"Yes--8 or 9 cents."

Mike pointed out that he should ask for at least a hundred. Thanks, honey.

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