Chesapeake, Va. - Two tragic cases involving children with autism are opening up a conversation in our community.
Julia Ward has 5-year-old autistic twins and five children in total.
Last week, an unsecured chain on the front door caused her twins to escape out of her Williamsburg home.
"The most terrifying 10 minutes of my life never that I could ever imagine," said Ward.
She spotted her son Mason almost immediately, but Tyler was missing for 10 minutes. She grabbed her other children, the neighbors and called 911.
"We found him 30 seconds before the police arrived so we felt very fortunate that I had a good outcome because for many of these children because not," said Ward.
Mea’Alofa Autism Support Center Executive Director Christine Passaretti is heartbroken after two tragic local cases.
“I can't imagine what these families have to go through," said Passaretti.
In September, an 8-year-old autistic girl drowned in a swimming pool in Virginia Beach. Then this week a 3-year-old climbed out of a window, according to his family. After several hours of searching, he was found dead in a nearby marshy waterway.
Hundreds turned out to help search for him.
“Children with autism are very drawn to bodies of water for whatever reason,” said Passaretti .
According to the Centers for Disease Control and prevention, more people than ever are being diagnosed with autism.
The National Autism Association says drowning is among the leading causes of deaths of people with autism and they are more likely to wander. They found 32 percent of parents reported a close call with a possible drowning.
"Just because they can't communicate very well doesn't mean they can't problem solve. They are very good problem solvers. They can figure out locks, they can figure out doors, they can figure out most things that people would think of their children doing, mine will do, and that's very common with most autistic children," said Ward.
Autism advocates want the public to be more educated about children with autism and say these devastating local cases are bringing more awareness to the issues.