A Strongsville, Ohio mother says she blames herself after her young daughter was found unconscious in a neighbor’s pool.
According to WKYC, just before 3-year-old Aria Kalinich was found in the pool, she was napping. Her mother, Jessica Baksi, admitted that while her daughter slept, she ran to the McDonalds down the street.
It was during that time that police received a call, around 1:00 p.m. on August 1, about a young child wandering up and down the street nearby Baksi’s home. Twenty minutes later, Kalinich was found in one of her neighbor’s pools.
After CPR was performed on the 3-year-old to no avail, she was transported to Southwest General Hospital where she was pronounced dead.
Baksi said in an interview with WKYC:
“I wasn’t right to step away and I blame myself. I blame myself a lot, everyone blames me, I’m sure. But you know, I just want to make sure her story doesn’t go in vain.”
The woman who saw the 3-year-old wandering said she tried to catch the little girl but noticed that she was scaring her. She was wearing just a onesie and diaper at the time.
According to Baksi, her daughter had severe autism, and this wasn’t the first time Kalinich wandered from her home.
As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains, children with disabilities like autism often struggle with wandering, or “elopement”:
Wandering goes beyond the brief time that a typical toddler might run off from a caregiver. Some children and youth with disabilities, such as those with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or intellectual disability (ID), have challenges understanding safety issues and communicating with others.
The CDC reports that at least half of children with ASD or ID are said to wander from the safety of their homes and parental supervision. Here are a few reasons why a child may want to leave their home:
- Enjoyment of running or exploring
- To get to a place he or she enjoys (like a pond)
- To get out of a situation that causes stress (for example, being asked to do something at school or getting away from a loud noise)
- To go see something interesting (for example, running to the road to see a road sign)
Now, Baksi wants others to learn from her and her daughter’s story:
“Kids will run away, they will try to sneak off and put themselves in dangerous situations and for the memory of my daughter I do want to make awareness of that.”
“We put bars, we put locks, we put safety measures which is very important but as you know some kids with autism have very high IQs and they know how to figure out things when they have time, so she figured it out and she left.”
It’s unclear if Baksi will face any legal ramifications.