Monday, November 28, 2011

Autism Wandering: Pennsylvania Police Officer Rescues 7 Year Old Girl From Frigid Waters

Police Officer Theresa Stauffer
Photo: Lancaster Online

One of the terrifying realities for many parents of autistic children is the tendency of many children with autism to wander away, from home and safety to unknown dangers.  It is a terror that I have experienced a number of years ago and written about several times on this blog.  Lancaster Online reports a recent occurrence in  Pennsylvania where an alert neighbor and the prompt action of police officer, Theresa  Stauffer,  combined to save the life of a 7 year old girl with autism who had wandered neck deep into a pond's frigid waters:

"As she headed to her patrol car, Stauffer said she heard the woman tell the dispatcher the child had entered the water.  Stauffer, 31, drove to the pond in less than a minute."I could see the child, probably hip deep, walking toward the center of the pond," she said.

The officer ran toward the water, throwing her patrol belt and gun to the ground while yelling to try to get the girl's attention.But the girl was focused on the water and did not respond to Stauffer, the officer said.  "The water was up to her upper stomach, she was splashing her arms and her teeth were chattering, so I ran into the water," she said.

The mucky bottom of the pond made every step a challenge."All I was thinking was, 'Get to her and get her out of the water,' " Stauffer said. "When I caught up to her, the water was up to her upper chest and lower neck." She came face to face with the girl, who turned her attention to the officer. "She was muttering, 'Cold, cold,' " Stauffer said. The officer put her arm around the girl and pulled her from the pond."

The Lancaster Online article indicates that police officer Theresa Stauffer deflected any praise or credit for the girl's rescue and credited the local resident who alerted police to the situation.  The Lancaster Online reports that police officer Stauffer did not want to be called a hero.  To this "autism" dad though that is exactly what she is, a hero, as is the neighbor who reported to the police.

For me as a father who has lived through a similar experience and whose son is safe today I read each such story having lived a similar experience.  These stories  do  not hide the truth about the challenges facing autistic children and their families. When they end well, as this one did, I live again the  fear, relief and joy I felt many years ago when I was reunited with my son.

1 comment:

Aasiyah said...

I visited PA this summer, and attended some training there. they have excellent resources for autistic individuals there, and support as well.
If I ever have to choose a state to live in with my ASD son PA will be my choice for sure, because of their hard work for awareness.
Thank you for sharing this article.