An adult autistic woman is dead in Philadelphia and her mother is distraught over what she considers a lack of concern on the issue. “No one cares about my daughter. She was poor, she was disabled. She was not going to set the world on fire. But she was my world,” said Patricia Sankey to columnist Ronnie Polaneczkey of Daily News. Patricia’s adult, autistic daughter was non-verbal.
Sankey was reported missing after she reportedly wandered away from her state-paid caregiver, Hussanatu “Ayesha” Wulu, 29, inside a Macy’s in W. Philadelphia, Metro reported. Police said officers were flagged down by a concerned citizen the next morning who spotted a woman on the ground between two parked vehicles in SW Philly. Police notified medics who pronounced the woman dead at the scene. The dead woman was later identified as the missing autistic woman, Christina Sankey.
Now, the autistic woman’s mother wants to know why the PPD and the District Attorney were not suspicious that her non-verbal autistic daughter, who could not ride a bus unassisted, was able to travel five miles before she was found dead. The autistic woman was also found topless at the scene. Off the record, a police source said, “People who die of cold exposure often feel hot and remove their clothes,” and that’s why he suspects that Christina was topless, Ronnie Polaneczkey reported. The autistic woman’s mother wants more answers and accountability.
The investigation and lack of media attention about specific circumstances surrounding the autistic woman’s death frightens many parents of autistic children. According to IACC data, wandering is a concern with 49 percent of autistic children.
40 percent of parents of autistic children suffer from sleep deprivation over fears of wandering. The death of Sankey has parents concerned about the safety of their children once they are adults. “A lot of parents describe the transition to adulthood as like driving over a cliff,” autism researcher Paul Shattuck said, according to News Max Health.
Magen LaFave, the mother of an autistic child facing adulthood, told Inquisitr, “This is one of my biggest fears: Someone someday is going to take advantage of my son and because he’s different, nothing will be done about it.” In 2010, NAA created AWAARE which is a central source of information and tools for autistic individual’s caregivers to address autism-related wandering. The organization features a “Big Red Safety Box” that includes door and window alarms, ID tags, and a wristband to alert the public that the individual is autistic and may be wandering.
Controversial pediatrician, Dr. Bob Sears, calls autism “the most devastating medical emergency of our century.” The latest statistics released this year say that as of 2010, 1 in 68 children have been identified as autistic. That rate continues to increase and many of these children will grow up and continue to need assistance. A large number of autistic adults consider autism a gift and a part of their identity rather than a disability and would oppose Dr. Sears’ description. For other autistic adults, though, the world is still very dangerous. For some parents of autistic children, the non-verbal woman who was found topless and dead between two cars in Philly reminds them that that they may live with their worry for the rest of their lives.
[Big Red Box graphic used with permission from the National Autism Association – Sankey photo via PPD]