#Care About Christina

During National Autism Awareness Month, it's important to look at the full scope of autism-related issues out there. A recent death in Philadelphia highlights the worst fears of every parent with a child on the autism spectrum. The sad story spurred MomSpeaker and special needs advocate to speak up, so Christina Sankey's story does not go uninvestigated.

The other day I read a story in the Philly Inquirer and it made me just so sad. If you read the story and then say, “Jeez, why didn’t I know about this?” don’t beat yourself up. No one knew. In fact, the title of the article is “The Death No One Cares About.” I was so moved by the article that I emailed the writer and asked what I could do. His response, while kind, didn’t offer much other than the option to pass along cards to Christina’s mother. I said that I may do that, and that all that I had to offer was to try to start a social media movement. He admired my passion, but that was about it.

So what is the story? Christina Sankey was an adult living with significant mental and intellectual disabilities. According to the article she was quite low-functioning. She had a 1:1 person, someone whose only job was to be with her seven hours a day and keep track of her.This 1:1 aide took her to Macy’s in Center City . . . and promptly lost her. Missing persons reports were filed and, long story short, she was found dead a few weeks later. Official cause of death is not yet known, though hypothermia is expected. She was topless, and since hypothermia (in later stages) causes you to do crazy things, no one is pursuing the toplessness of her situation, because they think she did it herself.

Except this: Mom says she was so low-functioning, she could not take off her own top.

As a mom to a child who is also low-functioning . . . that resonates with me. My son, although only 7, cannot take off his own shirt, pants or shoes. So I get it. If I find my son disrobed, I know that he is not capable of doing it. That is suspicious.

But apparently so far, the DA’s or ME’s offices do not think so.

So here we are, several weeks after her death. The aide, whose only job was to keep track of her, has barely been questioned. The agency who hired him, nothing. Her exact cause of death is yet to be determined. And meanwhile, a mom has lost her baby.

"She was not going to set the world on fire. But she was my world." —Christina’s mom Patricia

I’m tired of society thinking that people with autism or intellectual disabilities do not matter. They matter. Everyone matters. Everyone has value. Christina mattered. And a mom cannot even get back the pictures of her daughter that she gave to the agency when her daughter went missing.

So I’m asking you to speak up with me and tell the world that Christina’s life mattered.

You can call Casmir Cares Services at 267-292-3116 and ask them why they won’t at least return the pictures of Christina to her mother instead of referring her to an attorney. You can ask them why they haven’t investigated Hussanatu Wulu, her caretaker.

With the hashtag #CareAboutChristina, you can tweet @DASethWilliams and ask Philly’s DA Seth Williams why he isn’t investigating.

You can also tweet the supervising agency @PhillyRecovery and ask them what they are doing to prevent this from happening again.

If you prefer to just retweet, I got you covered!

Lisa Lightner is a Chester County, PA mom of two. This post was adapted from the blog A Day in Our Shoes, which she co-authors. It provides support, resources and advocacy services for parents of children with special needs.

Categories: MomSpeak