It is never easy to write about loss, so I hope not only does this message provide some comfort and sincere condolences to Avonte Oquendo’s family, but also hope to our community. Our hearts are heavy as we are saddened to have confirmation that the remains found on Friday were that of Avonte’s. He is the 14-year-old autistic boy from Queens, New York that went missing back on October 4th.
I remember when the story broke on the National News. My eyes began to well up with tears and I developed a lump in my throat as I looked over at my 6-year-old son, who also is autistic, playing with his Spider-man action figures. So many thoughts and emotions were going through my mind. I could not imagine what his mother and family were going through at that moment. The fear, helplessness, and uncertainty of not knowing where your child is, is truly any parent’s worst nightmare. Overwhelmed with empathy and hoping Avonte was safe, I remember giving my little guy a very protective hug and feeling as not wanting to let go. At all costs, I wanted to keep him safe and I hoped that he would never wander off.
Wandering is a major safety issue, especially with children of autism. Unfortunately it is very difficult to watch the news because these wandering cases are not isolated occurrences. Solutions include heightened security in schools and optional tracking devices. Hopefully over the next few months, through these solutions and awareness, we will find ways to eradicate this growing problem and safety concern with our children.
The past few months have been long and trying road for Avonte’s family and though everyone’s worst fears were confirmed, he is now at peace. Our deepest sympathy goes out to his mother, Vanessa Fontaine, and his family. We hope that all will respect their privacy as they grieve and take time to begin the healing process.
With deepest sympathy,
Lisa T. – Mother and Parent Advocate