AKRON, Ohio -- A parent’s world stops when their child wanders off in a public place. Add autism to the mix and the panic is amplified; especially if the lost child is nonverbal or low functioning.
“People often joke that autism homes will be barricaded from the inside,” says autism parent Lisa Gibson. “It’s true because our children are very clever on how to maneuver and get out.”
Gibson says her 12-year-old autistic son Nic was low functioning and had no concept of danger. Three years ago Nick’s lack of fear led to tragedy for Gibson’s family.
“We had this creek behind our home where we lived and he jumped into the water. The current was too strong. He was ripped away from us and he ended up drowning,” says Gibson. “I lost Nic and I don’t want any other parent or family to ever have to go through what we went through.”
Amy and Jeff Belles of Akron are working to make sure other families dealing with autism don’t have to experience Gibson’s pain. The couple was featured this week on WKYC’s new series Rising because they started a local chapter of the autism acceptance nonprofit KultureCity. Their goal is to change the world for their 11-year-old autistic son Carson.
The Belles’ hosted a sensory friendly event at the Akron Zoo for families raising children with special needs. Each family received a lifeBOKS kit to help prevent wandering and wandering related accidents. The kit includes: a wearable child ID/medical ID, window and door alarms, Bluetooth BuddyTag, and SafetyTats skin stickers.
After becoming connected with the Belles family online, the zoo event was Gibson’s first time meeting Amy and Jeff in person. Although her son Nic is gone, Gibson felt strongly about supporting the efforts of the Belles family and KultureCity Ohio.
“Autism is always going to be apart of my life,” says Gibson. “Whatever I can say to help bring awareness so that other people know that there’s things out there that they can do to keep their child safe. I don’t want Nic’s life to have been for no reason. I don’t want him to have died in vain.”
KultureCity gives the lifeBOKS kits away free of charge to autistic children.
Individuals interested in securing a kit can apply on the organization’s website. KultureCity is also accepting donations to cover the cost of the kits.