Summer Hazards: 8-year-old NJ autistic boy drowns in pond

My son loves the water—we’ve been going almost every day to the beach over the past few days as the temperature has been in the 90s here in New Jersey. At 13, Charlie is a good swimmer with a particular love of swimming in ocean waves. Nonetheless, when we’re at the beach, there’s never a moment when my husband Jim and I are sitting in beach chairs and flipping through magazines. For the first time this summer, Charlie seems to understand that he needs to follow our directions to swim in towards the shore and stay between the lifeguard’s flags. But his love of the water is such that, we fear, he may very well not realize he’s in trouble until it’s too late.

An 8-year-old boy on the autism spectrum drowned in a pond in central New Jersey on Sunday. My heart went straight into my stomach on reading about Adlai Kugblenu. 

If Adlai’s family and those who knew him are reading this, please know that we are thinking very, very much of him.

The New Jersey Star-Ledger reports that Adlai often played by the pond, always with his father present. Last Sunday, Adlai went missing on Sunday afternoon and his father immediately checked the pond and called the police.

The pond is just a couple of hundred feet from an apartment we lived in till last November; we drove by it at least twice a day and Charlie and I often walked past the pond on our walks. There was no fence around it, though there was a sign saying ‘No swimming.’ My son can’t read; I don’t know if Adlai could. If my son had decided that he wanted to go into a pond or pool he sighted, I have a feeling nothing—not even a fence—might stop him. 

At the moment, my son waits for Jim and me before he goes off on a walk or out of the house, but one just never knows when he might choose—it’s not at all uncommon for autistic children to ‘elope’ or escape, and, terribly, it seems that one hears about something terrible happening, too often

We’ve already gotten an email from AutismNJ, a New Jersey advocacy organization, about addressing elopement in an autistic child’s Individual Education Plan or IEP. An IEP is the legal document that describes the educational program for a child with a disability as mandated under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Teaching a child not to escape from home may not seem like something teachers might teach a child in a school program. But for a child on the autism spectrum, what needs to be learned goes beyond reading, writing, and the like. Charlie looks for Jim or me to come out and walk with him because he’s learned that he needs to listen to our directives; that he’s supposed to walk with us, rather than just by himself. I’m not entirely sure how Charlie figured this out. He has had years and years of being taught to wait for an adult (us, a teacher, a therapist) to tell him what to do. And, he is older and, being a teenager now, seems to understand some things more. 

But all the teaching in the world won’t bring back Adlai. To those who love him, please know that we’re all thinking, that we will be thinking, of him and you.
In memoriam Adlai Kugblenu.

Photo by KQ4YM.


Cathy Noftz
Cathy Noftz7 years ago

~This is a good article to bring awareness to people about autism~My prayers are with all families who have children with autism!~

Sheila M.
Sheila M.8 years ago

My five year old autistic son drowned on July 27 in a neighbor's pond. He died on July 29.

Police need to react differently when an autistic child disappears because they just don't recognize danger.

Please help us change things by signing up for the Mason alert at

Ann Eastman
Ann Eastman8 years ago

Read, with great sadness.

Philippa P.
Philippa P8 years ago

So tragic. Prayers are on the way to the family.

Betty H.
Betty H8 years ago

If you have an autistic child I would advise an immediate relationship with the Man above. You will need all the help you can get.

Betty H.
Betty H8 years ago

This story just brought tears to my eyes. My autistic son had a couple close calls involving his safety. The first time was when was about 9 months, he choked on a round checker game piece. It was actually lodged in his throat and I couldn't get it out despite all my efforts. I began to panic as I could see him about to pass out. Finally my friend who was there at the time using her long slender finger nails was able to do what my short stubby fingers couldn'tand that was pull it out. The second time at age two we were visiting the Grand Canyon. We were very excited and busy chatting about the sights when we notice my son missing. We are turned around to look when to our utter horror we saw my son with his leg clearly straddle over the rim of the canyon. For a quick instant I could see the newspaper headline citing the death of my son at the canyon. While I stood totally motionless my 14 yo daughter ran grabbed her brother. We were all so disturbed by what had occurred that we immediatly left. Then at age 9 while trying on clothes at a Sears store at the mall a stranger simply walked off with my son without my knowledge. The store had several exits and I wasn't sure where to go or what to do. I said a silent prayer telling the Almighty this was a job for him. When stepping out on faith you can't obsessed over the matter you have to let go and let GOD. About 15 minutes later with me doing nothing but more shopping my 10 yo son walked up with his brother in tow.

Colleen Maranda
Colleen B8 years ago

It's important to spread awareness that there's a safe and affordable way to deal with the epidemic of Autism, ADD and ADHD in children. These children are extremely sensitive to mercury.

Two doctors in Poland recently showed that nearly all ADD and ADHD children are seriously deficient in magnesium, which significantly reduced symptoms over six months.

Most of the medical world is still not aware of transdermal (through the skin) treatment with natural magnesium chloride. Global Light Network has the purest, totally natural and most concentrated "Magnesium Oil" available. It's not actually oil, but pure seawater extract with a slightly oily feel. They also provide it in gel form, and flakes to add to the bath.

Oral supplementation is a slow, less effective process and carries the constant risk of causing diahorrhea for the child. Using the Magnesium Oil can raise their magnesium levels much quicker and without risking the diahorrhea.

Some doctors and health food stores are now ordering it for this purpose, though it can be purchased directly from GLN.

Most American adults are also deficient in this critical mineral, magnesium. There are 89 other conditions/diseases that need them to absorb magnesium through skin (these are listed in "Holy Water, Sacred Oil" by Dr. Norman Shealy MD, PhD). Blood pressure, cholesterol, joints, skin, depression, strokes, Parkinsons', calcifying arteries and organs...

I am deeply sorry for what Adlai's family is suffering.

April Thompson
April Thompson8 years ago

Sadly noted!

Rebecca M.
Rebecca M.8 years ago

This is a heart breaking story, and the family in question has my deepest sympathy. My younger brother has autism, and still frequently takes of even now, at 23. Thankfully now he is much more aware, and able to look after himself, and usually remembers to take his mobile phone (which he has to waer on a lanyard around his neck, so he doesn't lose it) so we can contact him. We had much more trouble when he was younger, before he could talk in a way that others could understand, and before he understood about cars and crossing the road and other dangers. Several times he disappeared, and fortunatly the police or a kindly neighbour found him each time. It started weh he was tall enough to reach the door handle, then again a few years later when he grew tall enough to reach the latch we put on the door so he couldn't take off. This unfortunate story just reminds me how lucky my family has been, and how easliy our story could have been another tragedy like the one Adlai Kugblenu's family has had to go through.
My heart goes out to them, and everyone else who has lost a loved one on the spectrum in an similar way.

Julia W.
Julia W8 years ago

I am so sorry for Adlai and his family.

My daughter is on the spectrum. On a vacation trip to Canada, when she was 17 or so y/o, we were at a shopping mall. My husband was with her, I was elsewhere in the mall, they both went to the bathroom. She was nowhere to be found when my husband got out of the bathroom. Immediately store & mall employees were put on alert. They were great. We found her a TERRIFYING 15- 20 minutes later. She is a reader, she was sitting down calmly reading on the floor in the mall bookstore. It's the only time she has eloped.

I am so sorry for Adlai's family.