Can Our Children Heal This Broken World?


There have been a lot of frightening things happening in the world the past few weeks. Recent events like those in Beirut, Paris, Mali, and the ongoing situation in Syria all weigh heavy on my heart. They cause me to worry about what the future will bring for my children. It also makes me wonder what, if anything, I should tell them about the harsh stories in the news.

One recent afternoon I was out running errands with my oldest son, and checked my phone after pulling into a parking space. I saw a news alert that the number of dead from a horrifying attack had just been raised. Without thinking about it, an “OH NO!” escaped my lips. Then I sat in stunned silence, overwhelmed with worry about the state of our broken world. The world my children will inherit.

From the backseat I heard a small, concerned voice. “What is it, Mommy?”

I had a choice to make. Part of me wanted him to stay innocent and pure. To keep believing in the goodness of his fellow human beings. The other part of me wanted him to know that there is evil out there and he must be on guard against it. Should I keep protecting him from the harsh realities of this world we live in, or is he old enough to understand? Continue reading

Autism and Self-Advocacy: Trusting that my son can speak for himself


My son has been on this earth for over 9 years, and Autism is an integral part of the person that he is. It has helped shape him into a unique individual who perceives the world in fascinating ways. He sees things I would never see. Autism has also presented him with some challenges. I still recall so vividly the first time he asked me, “What is Autism?” I tried to be empowering with my answer but also honest about how it may cause him to have to work harder at some things. The conversation helped him understand himself better and why he feels frustrated at times. He also became excited about his “special brain” (as he calls it), and he has embraced his Autistic identity.

At the beginning of our journey I was the one who spoke and advocated for him. As he grew older we began to tell his story together. One of the ways we did that was by starting a yearly ritual of explaining Autism to his classmates. He and I decided together what we wanted to share. I was so proud of him and his 1st grade classmates when I first watched them have a honest conversation about being different. You are never too young to learn to be kind and accepting of one another!  Continue reading

Firsthand Look at Syrian Migrant Camp in Slavonski Brod: Stories and pictures shared by humanitarian workers

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They arrived hungry and cold asking ‘where am I’ and wondering how long they would be in this camp… They were the face of humanity, longing to be treated as humans. Their faces were streaked with tears, whether from the cold or something far greater, I do not know. All I know is our tears came from overwhelming love, breathtaking grief and bottomless compassion.”

Those words were written by a friend who is currently serving in the Slavonski Brod camp at the Serbian/Croatian border. She and a team from First Baptist, Richmond are doing what they can to meet the needs of the scores of people (approximately 6,000 per day) who arrive there in a desperate search for refuge, help and hope. Some of the team members have been posting updates and they have given me permission to share them with you. It depicts real people in the midst of great hardship. Please take a moment to look. What is happening there is important. These people are all of us. I urge you to not turn away. ~Jennifer

Posted by Ann Whitfield Carter at Washington Dulles International Airport, Sunday, November 1, 10;30pm  •


A week ago I had no idea I would be on a plane headed to Istanbul tonight. But opportunity knocks and I can’t say no. I will be spending a week on the Serbia/Croatia border working in a Syrian refugee camp. 5,000 people steam through there a day looking for some food, some rest, and medical attention before they continue their journey. Grateful for a church that cares about the world and sends people to help meet the most basic human needs: safety, food, rest.


Posted by Ann, November 3 at 1:37am • Osijek, Croatia •
No sleep yet. My mind is racing. Elvis, a Bosnian born seminary student, along with his cohorts Evan and Miki picked us up from the airport. Because I tend toward car sickness, I rode shotgun and heard the most amazing story on our three hour drive (the one benefit to motion sickness!) This summer, Elvis and his friends had been gathering supplies through their local church for some community service project or other. The Syrian refugee crisis happened before they put their supplies to use. So Elvis and his friends went down to the Serbian border with their supplies and began handing out supplies. Local police who were trying to manage the flow of humanity began to work along side these young men to serve the refugees. Pretty soon, local government, UNICEF, the Red Cross and the Catholic Church were pooling their resources together, and a camp was formed. (They are opening a second camp this week) That was 90 days ago. Today’s trip to Budapest to pick us up was their first time away from the camps since then.

THAT, my friends, IS WHAT THE CHURCH IS CALLED TO DO. To be the hands and feet of Christ, seeing needs, being the first to generously share their resources, and welcome partners into the process of meeting those needs.

I am amazed by these young men – they are courageous leaders. Our world is a better place because Elvis and Miki and Evan are in it.


Posted by Ann, Tuesday, November 3 in Osijek •

Elvis calls this is the Croatian Ferrari. One time all the farmers drove to Zagreb to protest a government policy – on their tractors. It took them 2 days.


Posted by Ann, November 3 at 6:57pm • Oriovac, Croatia •


Tomorrow morning, a new camp is opening in Slavonsky Brod. Today, a train filled with refugees came for a trial run before the real thing tomorrow. Tonight, Steve Blanchard, Jeff Dortch (Jeannie), Lisa Tuck and I will work from 10-7 helping the camp put the final preparations in place. They will begin to receive refugees first thing in the morning. This camp will be better equipped for the winter months. The refugees don’t have to walk to get here, they can take a train. They can wait to register in the warmth of a train car rather than outside in the cold. There are a few winterized tents that will not only protect from the elements, but will keep them warmer than the summer tents at the other camp. This is a major endeavor, yet the organization is impressive. Volunteers from Caritas, Jesuite Refugee Services, the Red Cross, UNICEF, Samaritan’s Purse, local police, and the Croatia Baptist Aid are working together to warmly welcome the 5,000 plus refugees who stream through here each day.

Elvis story of the day: He said something at dinner about “failing forward.” I asked him what that meant and he said that when something needs to be done and you don’t know how to do it, you have to start somewhere and just keep adapting and adjusting until it works. When you try to do something this big, you can’t be afraid to fail – because you are going to fail. You just have to keep failing until you succeed. Truth.

So now I am going to sleep before I pull an all nighter!

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Posted by Ann, Wednesday, November 4, 4:40am, • Lovas, Croatia•

A 4am train filled with 1200 precious humans. Next stop Zagreb.


Comment by Steve: “Such an eerie representation of human suffering as refugees debark from trains at Croatian camp”

Posted by Steve Blanchard, Wednesday, November 4, 5:45am•   My heart was broken some 3000 times in the last 12 hours as I stood on the Croatian/ Serbian border helping process and temporarily settle refugees as they prepare for the next leg of their journey into the unknown. I saw sadness, anxiousness, and fear in many eyes and faces but at the same time it was amazing to see what a smile shared could evoke. I did not hear complaints as much as I heard “thank you” though the weather was damp, foggy, and downright freezing. I lifted them onto or off of trains to and from the camp, showed them to their temporary holding tents, took them to the doctor, answered what questions I could and tried to let them know they were loved. I was inspired by the countless volunteers from Croatia and other places around the world who give their time freely through some very challenging situations. I was impressed by the Croatian government and the many non-governmental agencies (NGO’s) who were there patiently providing what they could to people who were desperate, overwhelmed and uncertain what tomorrow held. Tonight, we return, engaging new faces, young and old, men and women, strong and weak and try our best to say to them through our actions and expressions that they are loved. God be with them and the ones who are the bridge to tomorrow as well. Amen


Posted by Ann on Wednesday, 6:16am, near Osijek, Croatia•

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We are finally home from working a 12 hour overnight shift. In the cold, damp, foggy dark, we sent two train loads of people on to their next stop in Slovenia and received two train loads of people from Bosnian camps. The ones we met came from Iran, Afghanistan and Syria. They came by foot, car, boat, bus and train. Some had travelled as many as 35 days to get to Croatia. There were extended families, immediate families, couples and single men. The youngest we saw was two months old….the oldest was, well, I didn’t ask. But pretty old. There were children sleeping in the arms of parents or slumped on their dad’s shoulders, or on their feet propped up by the crowd around them. They stood in line after line after line to register, to get a blanket or some food, to get shoes or a coat, to board a train, to get medical attention, to use the restroom, to get warm water for formula. They pushed and shouted as they advocated for their families and the old or young around them. These kind and courageous souls hoped to end up in Germany or Slovakia or Sweden or England or Switzerland. They dreamed of finishing graduate degrees, getting jobs, being warm, reuniting with family. They longed for safety, peace, rest, and a home. They feared not being accepted, being sent away, being separated from their children, that their government they were fleeing would discover that they were in the EU and punish (kill) their families who remained. They arrived hungry and cold asking “where am I” and wondering how long they would be in this camp (12-15 hours). They needing food and blankets and shoes and gloves and coats and water. They were kind and generous to the volunteers; embracing us and thanking us for our help, asking God to bless us. They were the face of humanity, longing to be treated as humans. Their faces were streaked with tears, whether from the cold or something far greater, I do not know. All I know is our tears came from overwhelming love, breathtaking grief and bottomless compassion.

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Scene in camp as morning broke in Croatia.


Posted by Steve, Thursday, November 5, 3:35am•   Well, another night has come and gone in the camp. Last night was not as busy, only around 2000 refugees came and went. Before the trains came, we had time to sit and talk to refugees from many places; Syria, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Egypt, Iran, and Iraq. Many escaping not only war but also groups like the Taliban, Isis, and Al-Queda. Some had a story to share and a need to share it. As our team walked throughout the camp, listening, we again heard the fear, the hope, and the sadness of those who had to leave behind their homes, their dreams, their families, and everything they had. Still, many were thankful. They did not want to be a burden to anyone, they just wanted a chance to live their life in peace and safety; a place to raise their family and contribute to society. When the refugees were ready to leave or when they arrived, our goal was to meet them or send them off with a warm word, smile, or handshake. We were rewarded time after time with nods, hands over hearts, words of thanks, or smiles of hope. After they were settled into their assigned sectors, awaiting the next step of their journey’s, we helped them get settled, find toilets, places to rest and refresh, answer questions and concerns, listen to them and reassure them all was okay. Many of them had been travelling for 40 days or more, had endured rough seas or long walks, had witnessed violence on a scale many of us will never see, or had seen family members or loved ones disappear. Yet, they endure. Live for the next day, embrace the present, hope for tomorrow. We also saw many volunteers from Belgium, Wales, England, Croatia, Switzerland, the U.S., the Netherlands, and other places giving their time to be present with these children of God and to be with them on this leg of their journey. Thus far, in the last 2 months, over 350,000 refugees have passed through Croatia alone. Tomorrow, more will come. They will be met again with the love of God and sent off with that same love and hope.


Posted by Ann, Wednesday, November 4, 12:30pm•
Two precious faces out of thousands of precious faces. (Taken with permission and accompanied by silly giggles and warm hugs)



Posted by Ann, Thursday, 4am, at Slovenski Brod• 12182979_10208021154025431_3138620507345651252_o                                                                                         A very tired boy and his father wait while Red Cross volunteers search for his mother. This is the greatest fear of the refugees; being separated from their families.


Note from Jennifer: Now that you have looked, I urge to to act. We were put on this earth for each other. Need exists all around us. Across the world, and across the street. Open your heart, reach out your hand. Touch the life of someone today.

As of this posting the team is still serving in Croatia. I will make a second post at the conclusion of their trip.



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Guest post by Elizabeth Barnes at Autism Mom

Autcraft, the Minecraft server for children on the Autism spectrum, could become a victim of its own success.

In the almost three years since its inception, the Minecraft server has grown from a handful of players to over 6,000 registered members.

Recently Stuart Duncan, the creator and administrator of Autcraft, has realized that either Autcraft has to become able to support itself or he may have to close it down.

This could be devastating for the thousands of children on the spectrum and their families who rely on Autcraft as a safe, supportive place for them to play Minecraft, socialize, and grow.


Created by Duncan (“AutismFather” in the game) who not only has autism himself but also a child with autism, Autcraft was designed to be a safe place for children to play Minecraft online without experiencing bullying and other social unpleasantness that can happen on public Minecraft servers.

The Autcraft server is administrated by Duncan, and part-time by volunteer adults and players that include autistics, parents of autistic children and family members of someone with autism.


Autcraft is unique because it is a closed server – one has to apply to join and whitelist applications are individually reviewed and approved.

Most importantly, Autcraft is closely overseen by Duncan and Autcraft’s volunteer administrators and helpers

  • Bullying, killing, stealing, griefing, etc., is not tolerated
  • Swearing and misbehavior is not tolerated
  • There is an in-game support system so that when a players needs administrator help, they can get it almost right away
  • Players builds are protected using WorldGuard so that no one can damage them by accident or on purpose
  • All blocks placed, blocks broken, items dropped, picked up and more are tracked to see exactly what happens anywhere on the server

Duncan has always refused to charge players fees to join – he doesn’t want any child on the spectrum to be excluded from Autcraft because they don’t have the means to join.


Autcraft has been featured by numerous news outlets such as the TODAY Show in Australia, the Voice of America, BBC radio, among others, each describing how valuable the Autcraft experience has been for children on the Autism spectrum:

While Duncan started Autcraft to give kids an outlet to play a game they loved, it has quickly become a godsend for parents and therapists who credit it with their children’s incredible developmental gains. “We’ve heard from parents whose children’s therapists have been shocked with how much progress they’ve made and they’re like, ‘What are you doing different?’ and the parents say, ‘Autcraft’” ~ News.Com.Au

But the best way to understand is to hear it directly from the players and their families.

Our family has benefited immensely from Autcraft. Our son learned good online behavior, how to cooperate with others, and how to value rewards for positive behavior. Autcraft has been nothing but a great support for us.

And we are not alone in our positive Autcraft experience:

Autcraft is a must for any person with ASD! Autcraft has done things that years of therapy has not; In a few short weeks playing Autcraft, tarebear8805 has finally began asking for help, truly telling us what she needs, and, most of all, is finally recognizing that her actions do affect others … Autcraft teaches those with ASD in a way they can understand in an environment they understand, leading to them having the ability to actually generalize and effectively use what they have learned in in the real world! Autcraft has given us so many wonderful things, including the ability for our child to truly be an active part of our family! A huge thank you to those creators, admins, and others who have worked on Autcraft! ~ tarebear8805’s family

When I joined Autcraft I had very few friends, no self-confidence and had never felt like I belonged, that all changed when I joined. From the moment I joined I had so many people offering to show me around, help me build and be my friend. Autcraft gave me a place where I knew I would never be judged or bullied for who I am. Throughout my time on the server I have learnt so many things, I have made friends and I have even been able to become a Jr Helper on the Server, things I never thought possible. Autcraft isn’t just a Minecraft Server to me, It’s a place where I feel at home. ~ ChesyPleas

This video from an Autcraft player beautifully and simply sums it up:

(Click to read more news coverage of Autcraftplayer and family testimonials and video testimonials.)


The publicity Autcraft receives has increased applications and membership exponentially. But publicity doesn’t equal funding, and to manage Autcraft Duncan is effectively working a second full-time job for no pay. Eventually something has to give.

Rather than lose Autcraft, Duncan is engaging in a campaign to make Autcraft self-supporting. Here’s what you can do to help:

There are non-monetary things you can do to help, too:

  • Grants – Do you know of grants that can help support Autcraft, either Autism or non-Autism based, for individuals or businesses? Can you assist with grant application writing?
  • Business services – Do you know how to set up a corporation in Canada? Do you know someone who can? Can it be done for free for Autcraft?
  • Server services – Do you know how to maintain and update a Minecraft server? Do you know someone who can? Can it be done for free for Autcraft?
  • Watch YouTube – Autcraft has a YouTube channel and the videos are monetized with advertisements. Go watch videos, share them, and ask your friends to watch, so that Autcraft can get the ad revenue.
  • Ask others for donations – Do you know someone who is looking for a good cause to support with funding? Please ask them to consider supporting Autcraft.

And finally, the easiest thing you can do is to please share this article with as many others as you can, because every little bit helps.

Autism DOES NOT Create Mass Murderers


Autism does NOT equal mass shooter. However, the media often includes information in their stories that may lead the general public to make that assumption. Right now the tragic and senseless shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon is all over the news, as well as the subject of Autism. For example, the Today show ran a news clip on 10/6/2015 (the day of this post), with the description that “Information about the gunman in last week’s mass shooting in Oregon is emerging, indicating that his mother may have had an impact on his fascination with guns.” Then the first part of the piece proceeded to discuss not guns, but Autism. Here is a link to the clip:

The reporter Miguel Amaguer says, “Starling new revelations about the mother of Chris Harper-Mercer, a shooter who killed nine people at Umpqua Community College last week. For over a decade Laurel Harper, a registered nurse, offered online advice on various medical issues like Asperger’s Syndrome, an Autism Spectrum disorder that she wrote both she and her son struggled with.”

The story also mentioned that Harper wrote of dealing with a “screaming autistic head banger.” Why was that necessary? It then without explanation segued into the portion that was actually related to the story’s description: that the mother’s involvement with guns and the way she exposed her son to them may have possibly helped contribute to her son’s obsession with firearms.

So what was the link that viewers were supposed to make between the “new information” about Autism within the family, and the new information about their involvement with guns? What was Today trying to imply? Why was Autism even relevant to a story that seemed to be about the fact that the mother taught her son how to shoot guns?

It seemed to me to be to be a sensationalistic treatment of Autism, NOT relevant to the story, and disrespectful to Autistic people in general.

Stories like these are potentially damaging and can help foster the fear and stigma that is so often faced by Autistic individuals.

(Update: I did not address the gun issue in this post because this is a discussion about Autism. My point is that the news report purported to be about guns, but then also included seemingly unrelated information about Autism. I am not making any sort of commentary about guns one way or another. While it is an important discussion, that was not my focus here.)

Years ago, while the world was reeling from what transpired at Sandy Hook, best-selling Author John Elder Robison wrote an article for Psychology Today called “Asperger’s, Autism, and Mass Murder.” Speculation had arisen then, as now, that the shooter may have had Asperger’s. Robison is himself Autistic (he describes himself using both terms Asperger’s and Autistic), and warned, “Let’s stop the rush to judgment.” He also stated plainly, “Correlation does not imply causation.”  Continue reading

Autism and the Theater: THANK YOU Kelvin Moon Loh!


Kelvin Moon Loh is a performer who is currently in ‘The King and I’ at Lincoln Center. The day prior to this post there was an incident with an Autistic* person during one of his shows. His response was amazing, and he actually began a discussion about it on his personal Facebook page. Since some of you don’t have Facebook, and also because THIS IS IMPORTANT, I copied his responses and posted some screenshots here. Shared with his permission.

(*Yes, I said Autistic, not with Autism. I am not being disrespectful, I am simply reflecting the way that an increasing majority of Autistic individuals wish to be identified. If you are not familiar with the identity-first movement I encourage you to learn more.)

Here is what Kelvin’s Facebook post said (screenshot is at the top of the post):

“I am angry and sad.

Just got off stage from today’s matinee and yes, something happened. Someone brought their autistic child to the theater.

That being said- this post won’t go the way you think it will.

You think I will admonish that mother for bringing a child who yelped during a quiet moment in the show. You think I will herald an audience that yelled at this mother for bringing their child to the theater. You think that I will have sympathy for my own company whose performances were disturbed from a foreign sound coming from in front of them.


Instead, I ask you- when did we as theater people, performers and audience members become so concerned with our own experience that we lose compassion for others?  Continue reading

“Dad Sees Color”: Video of colorblind man’s joy at seeing the world in a new way

“Our Dad* has lived 24,998 days. Days filled with hope, fear, accomplishment, sadness, joy. But his days have been very different from yours and mine, because he’s color blind. He’s never seen red, pink, orange, green; the list goes on. But this Father’s Day, thanks to EnChroma, we were able to give him a gift beyond description… the gift of color.” These are the opening lines to a video, posted by a college friend (and linked to at the end of this post), that show’s his father’s reaction to wearing Color Blindness Glasses for the first time. (*not my Dad). 

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The message that I took away from this video was not that their Dad was broken and now he is fixed. That’s not the case. He was, and is, a complete person with a full life. His children simply wanted to be able to give him a new experience, as well as the ability to see things in a different way when he so wished.

Several videos about this amazing new technology have crossed my path recently, but I hadn’t watched any until now. I was more interested in seeing this particular one since it was about the father of a friend, and I’m so glad I took the time. There are many heartwarming moments in the video, including his reaction to the beauty of his flower garden. He seemed to be overcome with emotion.

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I found it incredibly moving when he cradled his daughter’s chin in his hand and gazed at the color of her eyes, saying, “I’ve never seen them before.” It was a stirringly tender exchange, and a precious moment for them to share.

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Continue reading

What it is Like to be Caught in a Rip Current


I’ve heard about the dangers of rip currents all my life, and have also been taught how to escape their powerful pull. I had always assumed that being caught in one would feel like suddenly being pulled away from the shore. It turns out that it can actually feel like nothing at all, and you often don’t realize you are in one until you are in real danger. And I never REALLY thought that it would happen to ME.

Let me rewind. Last week my family went on a mini-vacation in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The winds were 10 to 15 miles an hour the entire time we were there, and the surf was very active. Some areas had red flags, but some had yellow. My children had been waiting all year to swim in the ocean waves, so on our first day we decided to travel to a yellow flag area and swim in front of a lifeguard to help ensure safety. Nags Head had even employed hang-gliders to help monitor the ocean from above (that has got to be the Coolest. Job. EVER.). In the Outer Banks there are a lot of areas with steep drop-offs right at the water’s edge, but we found an area that had a sandbar not too far out. It helped us enjoy the water without being in very deep. My husband and I were very cautious, kept our children at arm’s length, and tried not to get in water that was above waist high. We also didn’t stay in the water longer than an hour because we knew the dangers of becoming overtired. We had a fun and uneventful afternoon, and in hindsight I think that made me overconfident.  Continue reading

When Public Figures Mess Up

In the past few days and weeks several public figures have had damaging personal information come to light. I’m talking about several different situations, not just Ashley Madison revelations. Some of these transgressions are seemingly worse than others, and some actually hurt people. I don’t make light of that. However, the media is always thrilled to have these juicy stories. Details of people’s private lives and personal failings are then trotted out to the world for their entertainment value. Commenters proceed to swarm all over the Internet and some are positively gleeful, saying, “This is great!” or “Haha, BUSTED!” There are cries of “Hypocrite!” Many are brutal, saying all kinds of cruel, crude, profane statements, even wishing them physical harm. When these fallen public figures happen to be Christians the screaming gets worse, and all Christians are painted with the same brush. People rally to stand in self-righteous judgement, seemingly forgetting their own flaws.

I understand that some of these individuals are experiencing a backlash because of their own previous statements. They have stood in harsh judgement of others and hurt people with their words. The irony is not lost on me. I hope maybe they learn something when they reflect upon the reality that they, too, are flawed. That being said, I still couldn’t believe some of the things that have been said online to those individuals. Reading the comments on a well-known You-Tuber’s page made me physically ill and brought tears to my eyes (but to be fair so did the news of what he is alleged to have done).

What I keep thinking over and over again in my mind is this: All humans are flawed, all humans make mistakes. At times some of us even do horrible things. Ultimately ALL humans on some level are hypocrites. Each one of us has a gap between what we say we believe/the person we want to be versus the way we actually live. And we all must ultimately face the consequences for our own mistakes or hypocrisy. But do those consequences warrant being subjected to public cruelty? (Click here to see a conversation about this subject on my Facebook page.)

Why is it that we take such joy in seeing other people fail? Why does it make us feel so much better about ourselves? And how is it that the simple disconnect of a screen between us and another person allows us to intentionally inflict hurt upon a fellow human being? Is it because we think they are so deserving of the Scarlet A, or the stoning? It seems we have not evolved very far from colonial days when a rule breaker would be placed in the courtyard stocks so that others could throw rotten fruit at them, instead of simply allowing someone to face judgement in the court system.

I make lots of mistakes too. There are things in my past that I regret. I have also stood in judgment and been harsh to others. But I want to do better in my own life and in the way I treat people.

I hope I never rejoice in the downfall of another human being. I may be relieved that they are no longer continuing down the wrong path, and I might nod understandingly at the fact that they are bearing the consequences for their own poor choices. I will probably even be relieved that they are brought to justice. But I do not wish to rejoice in it, or participate in lynch-mob mentality. I won’t use it as an opportunity to further tear someone apart by kicking a man when he’s down, so to speak. There are better ways to stand up for what is right. There are better ways to achieve justice.

The media and harsh commenters and vilifiers seem to forget that there’s often collateral damage… family members, spouses, and innocent children. Your words wound them as well.

Remember folks, we’re all in this together. Let’s be kind.

(This post was edited to add the following: “I understand that some of these individuals are experiencing a backlash because of their own previous statements. They have stood in harsh judgement of others and hurt people with their words. The irony is not lost on me. I hope maybe they learn something when they reflect upon the reality that they, too, are flawed.”)

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In the Blink of an Eye: Autism and Wandering


We had a little scare yesterday. I went to pick the Ninjas up from camp and found the littlest Ninja waiting outside the building by himself. He explained matter-of-factly that he was just really ready to leave, so he decided to go look for me. It didn’t even occur to him that he was doing something wrong until he saw how upset I was.

For anyone who has ever questioned why I am so hyper-vigilant with my son, this is why. Because incidents like this can happen far too easily.

I immediately brought him inside to the director of the camp and the three of us had a talk. The director was horrified, apologetic, embarrassed, and very concerned. They had let their guard down for just a second, and it happened in the blink of an eye.

It usually does. Children with Autism can be prone to wandering behavior, and that can put them at risk. Caregivers must put strict measures into place to help ensure a secure environment. Turn your back for just a moment and you could have a dangerous situation on your hands. We want to keep these precious children safe!

In the case of my young Ninja he can be impulsive, distractable, and not have a clear grasp of danger. He is also creative and wonderfully inquisitive and notices things the rest of us do not. Unfortunately that can mean that if he is busy noticing something interesting he does NOT notice if he wanders off or gets left behind. It has happened to me, and it was frightening.

I explained this about the Ninja when we first came to camp, and stated that a watchful eye was needed during transitions. I know from experience that dangerous situations can happen to even the most vigilant and nurturing of caregivers. People often assume that the Ninja functions on a certain level because he is able to be mainstreamed, and can forget that he still requires a certain level of care. He was once accidentally locked outside his school because he was behind a climbing wall and didn’t hear his teacher call the class inside at the end of recess. When he realized what happened he was left pounding on the door, crying and alone. Within a few minutes another teacher let him in, but it left him (and me) shaken.

While I am upset that these incidents occurred I am also grateful that my son escaped harm. I want to help prevent similar incidents from happening to ANY child. That is why I am talking about this. Not to shame or chastise anyone, but to help raise awareness.

When a parent tells you that a child in your care is prone to wandering, BELIEVE them.

I am still pleased with the camp and the leadership. They have been supportive and accepting of BOTH Ninjas. They’re also going to put more strict safety measures in place from now on. Still, when I stop and think about it I get chills. The adult watching the door looked away for just a second yesterday, and that’s all it took. My son slipped out in the blink of an eye.

It makes me want to sleep with one eye open from now on, just to be safe.


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