Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A 2-year-old Akron boy drowned over the weekend in southern Ohio.
The toddler, who is autistic, reportedly wandered away from his family as they stayed at a cottage near the Muskingum River about 8 p.m. Saturday.
The family found the little boy, Andrew “Drew” Howell, in the river.
The Muskingum County Sheriff’s Office reported that the boy was transported by the Dresden Fire Department to Genesis Good Samaritan Medical in Zanesville, where he later was pronounced dead.
The family administered CPR on the boy for 10 minutes before the fire department arrived.
Laurie Cramer, director of the Autism Society of Greater Akron, said Drew wandered away from the cabin and must have headed straight to the river — about 100 yards away.
Cramer, who was asked to speak to the media on behalf of the family, said Drew’s mother, Kelly Howell, shared that her “worst fears happened.”
“It only took 30 seconds of my attention being somewhere else” for her son to wander off, the mother told Cramer in an email.
Cramer said drowning is a constant worry for parents of autistic children.
“Wandering-related accidents are the No. 1 killer of children with autism,” she said.
Cramer added that in the past week alone there have been three drowning deaths in the U.S. of autistic children.
“[These] children are prone to wandering,” Cramer said. “It is one of the big stresses of having a child with autism.”
Cramer said another factor: Autistic children often are attracted to water.
Drew was described as “always happy” with a “contagious smile” in his obituary in today’s Beacon Journal.
“He loved to snuggle especially with his Mommy and Daddy,” the obituary said. “He was rarely upset unless he was hungry.”
Calling hours will be from 4 to 9 p.m. Wednesday at Bacher Funeral Home, 3250 Greenwich Road, Norton. The funeral will be at 10 a.m. Thursday at the funeral home, followed by burial at Greenlawn Memorial Park.
Drew is survived by his parents, Andrew and Kelly Howell and a sister, Katelyn.
Memorial donations can be made to the Autism Society of Greater Akron at 2858 W. Market St., Suite I, Fairlawn, 44333, in Drew’s memory.
Jim Carney can be reached at 330-996-3576 or