Rest In Peace Avonte Oquendo
Managing Editor's Note: Yesterday a news alert came in - the remains found in NY had been positively identified as Avonte Oquendo, missing 14 year old with autism who ran out of his school unsupervised (but not unseen) by staff. We've been praying for his return since October 4, when he vanished into thin air - not an easy feat in congested Queens, NY. Most of us whispered under our breath, "Water, go to the water, he went to the water." Well, today we have his return - not what we wanted - but as a Mother, I think there must be some comfort in being able to bury your child and know you can still watch over him, even in death. To the Oquendo family, our heartfelt condolences. There but for the grace of God and a stroke of luck go most of us and our precious children. RIP, Avonte. Love, Kim Send condolence cards to:
The Perecman Firm
Attn: The Oquendo Family
250 West 57th Street
New York, NY 10107
By Cathy Jameson
Last week, worry gripped my heart as I read that body parts discovered off the shore of the East River appeared to match that of a missing NYC teenager. Missing since October 4, 2013, Avonte Oquendo wandered from his school. Accusations and assumptions about how he was able to leave unsupervised are still being investigated. Answers from that investigation may take time, but after months of wondering where Avonte wandered can finally be answered. Several days after the grim discovery of bones and some clothing items, DNA positively identified the remains as 14-year old Avonte. Words cannot express how sad I am for his family.
As the mother of a child with autism who is prone to wander, the possibility of a fatal outcome because of wandering is never far from my mind. Ronan has gotten away from us before, but has been recovered quickly and with a far less search and rescue endeavor as Avonte’s search required. Because I know the fear that comes with this sort of situation, each time I hear stories of children with autism wandering, I try to pray. For month, I prayed for Avonte and his family as did many of us. My prayers changed Wednesday. Tears and sadness accompanied them. The more overcome I was, I stopped praying. I just couldn’t say any. The reality of autism and of this devastating situation has become far too common and more than I could bear.
Autism affects a great many. Autism can change a life, and sometimes in a way that is anything but positive. Autism and wandering is not uncommon. Autism is difficult, costly and consuming. Autism can bring a family to its knees in a moment’s notice. And what was confirmed again this week, autism can be deadly.
In between tears as I wept for Avonte, I wanted to say, Rest in Peace. But I couldn’t. My throat tightened up. My eyes filled with more tears. More sadness filled me. Anger crept in too. When it comes to autism and wandering there is no peace. How can there be? Constant watching and constant controlling of the environment while managing potentially difficult behaviors isn’t the easiest thing to do. Demands placed on the child with autism and on their caregiver are intense, and they come with little reprieve. Peace is desired, but it’s sometimes the farthest thought and the least tangible result.
When I try to pray again, for Avonte, for his family and for those who worked tirelessly on his behalf, I hope I can find the words my heart is aching to say. I’m hoping those prayers will help. I’m hoping they will wrap Avonte’s family with the strength they’ll need to carry them through what may be the most difficult days they never expected to live.
Cathy Jameson is a Contributing Editor for Age of Autism.
Barry, said it very eloquently and succinctly. He nailed it. Part brutally bleak Kafka novel and part complicated whodunnit novel in which we find, in the end, that there were several "perpetrators". But in this whodunnit, the story (crime) begins probably from his birth with the vaccine he received at birth that lead up to this cascade of tragic events. And judging from the political agenda that is emerging, the list of monsters and ghouls trying to take their pound of flesh grows. Even the more popular Facebook pages ostensibly dedicated to Avonte seem to censor serious discourse about the inadequacy of Schumer's proposal for tracking devices, which appears to me to reek of agenda. In the course of Avonte's short 14 years on this earth, it was a series of evil and corruption, indifference and humanity that led to his demise spanning over a decade. From Big Pharma, to the American Academy of Pediatrics, to NYC DOE snakepit that is D75, to the peddlers of tracking devices, to the elected officials that provided immunity to vaccine makers - the list goes on and on.
I cried publicly for this child in a way that I have never done in the presence of strangers. Why? I looked around and saw the callousness, the lack of tears (with very few exceptions)at his funeral and wondered how that could possibly be given the state of his remains when found and the circumstances that we already have read about his death from news sources. Not to mention what so many of us speculate about what his final moments were probably like. So I cried for him. Looked around and saw a precious few as deeply affected by the horror of it, so I cried on their behalf. Then cried some more and finally, I cried at the uselessness of my tears.
Absolutely no one but most of us parents truly gives a damn about our kids.
Posted by: Handthatrocksthecradle | January 28, 2014 at 09:22 AM
Avonte, you taught people to care deeply about autistic persons that wander, and you showed that cognitively disabled individuals are not "missing" but they are really lost. You gave hope to many others that the system will change for the better in the near future, to protect and search for them immediately instead of waiting to see what their status is.
The Good Shepherd has found His precious little lost lamb and brings you Home forever. God bless your loving family.
Posted by: aspiesmom | January 25, 2014 at 06:37 PM
I feel like my heart has been torn out. Avonte we fell to our knees and prayed so hard for your safety. We followed the search from the start. Please know how many people loved you and tirelessly tried to find you. Please know you where loved by millions. Please know your purpose was not in vain. You now have a place in my locket next to my autistic son. You will ever be forgotten. I will hug you every day together with my son. You will be remembered for as long as I live. Love you sweet angel xxx
Posted by: Jacqui Potgieter | January 25, 2014 at 02:44 PM
First let me express my deepest sympathies for the Oquendo family. As a teacher for kids with autism I found this very close to home. Every day on the train I looked posted flyers hoping someone would find Avonte and return him to his family. Rest in Peace Avonte and thoughts and prayers to the family.
Posted by: Lisa | January 24, 2014 at 05:06 PM
I'm Am Only 13, Ever Sense The Day Avonte Went Missing I was On The Look Out Everyday! looking for Him,Asking If People If They Saw Him, Telling My Friends To Be On The Look Out for Him. It Makes Me Sick To My Stomach To Think About How He Was Left To be Found. But He's An Angle Now He's In Good Hands, Gods Hands
May You Rest In Piece Avonte😔💕🙏👆
Posted by: Kay | January 23, 2014 at 09:45 PM
I'd like to think that Avonte's worldly mission was to bring people together in their understanding of autism and to ensure the necessary treatments, supports and supervision our autistic children so desperately need. Good karma for the soul of this child, who sacrificed so much in his short earthly life for the betterment of others. Surely the angels rejoice in his Homecoming.
Posted by: Sarah L'Heureux | January 23, 2014 at 09:43 PM
I been so obsessed with this tragic story. when I first laid eyes on the video of Avonte running, I said he runs likes Alex. Now Alex is my 18 year old who is also Autistic. Once I turn up the vol. and heard what was happening, I logged in everyday, reading every piece of news and praying dearly for his safe return. He's with the Angels now! and he also has a voice. Maybe it was God intention to get 8 million people to get together. It worked.
Posted by: vearn | January 23, 2014 at 07:58 PM
Wow. Yet ANOTHER innocent autistic child has wandered off to die alone, in one the most painful and terrifying ways imaginable. And STILL not the even the slightest indication of public concern. Much less the outrage that would be far more appropriate.
Although I truly believe that Avonte is now safe in the arms of God, i doubt even HE can find the words to explain this level of inhumanity.
Posted by: Barry | January 23, 2014 at 05:58 PM
Thank you, Cathy. I'm having trouble with words personally, but this comes very close to how I'm feeling.
Condolences and prayers for Avonte's family.
Posted by: Jeannette Bishop | January 23, 2014 at 01:37 PM
Since October I was waiting to hear good news about Avonte.I`m so sad and praying for his family.
Rest in peace Avonte.
Posted by: Yesim Söderlund | January 22, 2014 at 11:35 PM
Heaven is certainly going to be full of our children...so sad! Prayers to his family and best wishes in suing the hell out of that school district! If nothing else maybe they will learn to WATCH our children and INTERVENE if a child is headed out the doors without supervision! There is just NO excuse for that in a school full of children with special needs. Did they really not train staff better than that?
Posted by: helpingspecialkids | January 22, 2014 at 06:54 PM
Thank you for including an address to which we can send our sympathies.
Posted by: Esther | January 22, 2014 at 05:17 PM
Rest in the arms of Jesus, precious child! May his family find comfort in the tears we are all shedding for Avonte. May we find courage to protect all our children.
Posted by: Mama Bear | January 22, 2014 at 03:16 PM
Beautifully written, my thoughts and prayers go out to his family. I have followed closely the stories of autism and wandering after losing my sweet daughter almost 3 years ago and my heart breaks for each one of the families. As you follow these stories there are those where miracles happen and I prayed so hard that his family would be blessed with a miracle. I am glad that they are able to put him to rest. I personally have found that over the years the pain does not end of the loss of a child, I have had to refocus my energy and time that we all put into our children and find a healthy way to try to grieve and help others. I keep wondering when change will really happen? When will reform and lawmakers step up and see this horrible side of autism and do something more. it is a double edged sword because there are bad people who have hurt our children (mine included) in a school setting that we don't want anyone hurting our kids. The schools do not train and understand and we can not just let these children do what that want and wander or bolt from the school. I am afraid that the school have taken the other extreme from exclusion and restraints and do not bother stop a child from wandering and bolting. It is hard enough for us parents who lack sleep and worry about always keeping their children safe when they are with us, in my case one person. We should be able to send them to school and feel safe about sending them. I was blessed that my daughter was able to have a one on one aid at school but realize many do not have that. The reality is budget cuts and lack of training in the schools are costing them lives. I understand that wandering and bolting will always happen under the best of situations but to reduce the numbers of those lost is really what I want to see. I do not wish the life long pain of losing a child on anyone. The pain never goes away or decreases, you just become stronger and learn to live with the consent void of a child lost. I pray that the media doesn't shift, that lawmakers, schools, doctors, all those who are supposed to help us really wake up and realize what is happening, we are losing our children, and for parents like me the loss is life long. I will continue to do what I can to help and fight this fight because that is what my daughter would have me do. Thank you for all your work on this subject and kind words to families such as mine, we do notice and thank you. It is a life no one should ever have to live. May the family find some comfort and peace and that the many unanswered questions in these case will be answered for the family so that they can start to have some form of closure.
Posted by: Beth | January 22, 2014 at 02:23 PM
Roger Kulp, the "experts" should really listen to you, and heed your warnings
Posted by: aspiesmom | January 22, 2014 at 01:34 PM
Cases like this are happening more and more often,but there is one thing that doesn't seem quite right to me in cases like this.I wandered a lot.I must have started doing it early because I remember by the time I was three years old,it was happening fairly often.While I was wondering,I was frequently stopped by the police.I would walk out into traffic or go where I wasn't supposed to be.Not only that but I was always in a temporary state of being both nonverbal and unaware of where I was or what I was doing.More often than not I was taken into custody by the police for my own safety.I would come around either in police custody or in a hospital ER with no idea how I got there.It was always a while after coming around that I was able to talk.It happened to me as both a child and an adult,and it happened a lot.
Avonte was not out in the remote countryside,he was in the middle of New York City,why wasn't he picked up by the police?
I have been hit by cars a number of times while wandering,but luckily never seriously hurt.Both my wandering,for the most part,and all of my head banging went away after I started treatment with leucovorin.In my case both were caused by seizures.I had my first grand mal seizure in four years in September 2013,and once again wandered out into a busy street.
Seizures,especially complex partial seizures,are associated with wandering.While they have different causes from person to person,seizures are almost as common in autism as GI disease is.Has anyone bothered to do any studies to connect the dots here?Does every child or adult with autism who wanders also have seizures?Are they all unaware of their surroundings and unable to respond when wandering?Do they all have no memory of the episodes of wandering and what they did during it?
These seem to me to be very obvious questions nobody is asking.
Posted by: Roger Kulp | January 22, 2014 at 01:12 PM
May the Oquendo family take some solace knowing that Avonte is in Peace somewhere that the Deafening Thunder of his Silent Voice will be heard by All Now. The world that he lived in that so few understand is now one where there is no need to explain the whys, hows and differences that come from Living on of the Spectrum. He now is in a place where all children are Beautiful, Unique and Special no matter who they are and all are accepted without prejudice, scorn, or pain from ostracism based on lack of understanding.
God Bless you Avonte and may all who have ever loved you someday find Peace in knowing that you made their lives better in your short time with us.
Posted by: Mike Alle | January 22, 2014 at 12:59 PM
Autism is deadly. When will society wake up and step up. Parents doing it alone, overwhelmed districts, underfunded counties, and so many that just don't care. Avonte, your death was tragic and unnecessary but maybe, just maybe it will help change things. My heart breaks for your family. God, bless Avonte's family, hold them close.
Posted by: lori | January 22, 2014 at 11:36 AM
I knew this was coming, but oh, still, how my heart breaks...
“Your body may be gone, I’m gonna carry you in.
In my head, in my heart, in my soul.
And maybe we’ll get lucky and we’ll both live again.
Well I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. Don’t think so.”
- Ocean Breathes Salty – Modest Mouse
The tears hurt, but they will cleanse us and make us stronger.
Rest easy, Avonte. I wish peace and love to your family...I hope that one day soon, their heartache will ease.
Posted by: False Skeptics Make Me Laugh...but not today | January 22, 2014 at 10:34 AM