Parent Of Autistic Child Shares Fears After Cushing Boy's Death

Wednesday, April 20th 2011, 6:32 pm
By: News On 6

Tara Vreeland, News On 6

TULSA, Oklahoma -- Cushing police are still investigating the death of a four-year-old boy. Blake Murrell disappeared from his home and drowned in a nearby pond Tuesday.

4/19/2011 Related Story: Body Of Missing Autistic Boy Found In Cushing Pond

Blake had autism and was considered a wanderer. Some parents of autistic wanderers say they live in constant fear.

An unlocked door is Tosha Schiffli's worst nightmare. Even handyman's simple act of forgetfulness could change her family forever.

Willow, her nine-year-old daughter, is a wanderer.

"She runs," Tosha said. "You can't leave any doors open. You can't leave any windows open."

Alarm sensors are on the doors. Every window is screwed shut. Locks are everywhere.

There's no fear. They don't know to fear things. Getting hit by a car or they don't have that instinct," she said.

Tosha says they've tried ID bracelets, but they haven't found a product that Willow can tolerate. She's sensitive to touch.

The mother of four says her family lives in a constant state of heightened anxiety trying to keep Willow safe. She says her heart is broken for Blake Murrell's family.

"You just run all these scenarios in your head," she said. "Could she be in someone's pool? Like she doesn't think to be afraid of dogs!

The Autism Center of Tulsa says kids on the autism spectrum are drawn to water. But they don't understand the dangers. Drowning is the number one cause of accidental death for children with autism.

If it takes a village to raise a child, Schiffli says that's even more true for a child with autism and that she'll keep a sharp eye out for her wandering child.

"My husband and I are very diligent," she said. "They still get out. Every time you read something like that you are so sad because it could be you. It could always you. It could be me."

Schiffli says if you see a child wandering or alone, do not assume an adult is with them.

She says some autistic children won't respond to you.  Schiffli says call the police.

Tulsa Police officers are trained to recognize those with autism and can help get them back safely with their family.