Mom to 12-year-old son with autism explains how she keeps home safe

Hillsborough County

For Heidi Ferraro, a moment like this shakes her to the core.

The Odessa mom and her husband are active in the autism community as they raise their 12-year-old son, Alex, who was diagnosed at age 3. 

Like so many children with autism, Alex is drawn to the water, which Heidi admits brings with it a heightened awareness, especially living in Florida. 

When she heard about a little boy who drowned in south Tampa Wednesday, her heart broke. 

It happened in a matter of minutes at the Clipper Bay Apartments. 

Police tell us when April Sikes laid down for a short nap, her 4-year-old little boy, David, manipulated the door and somehow slipped outside. 

In an instant, he wandered off into the complex.  

When April woke up, she panicked when she couldn’t find her son. 

She began searching frantically and called 911. 

Sadly, Tampa police would find little David a short time later in a nearby pond. They tried to revive him, but it was too late. 

“At the end of the day, it’s somebody’s child. It’s heartbreaking,” Heidi told WFLA. “As a parent, we are always doing our best. This is just so sad.” 

In their Odessa home, Heidi and her husband have outfitted the house with multiple facets of safety gear, including high latches on the door and locks, only disabled with a key. 

They also enrolled David in swimming lessons very early on, hoping that he would take to the instructional process and enjoy time in the water. 

He did. He loves it. 

He began his lessons at just a little over 2-years-old. He became proficient within six months.

But, Heidi and her husband are always on guard. 

For them, just like any parent, safety first is their family motto. 

They also have an alarm system in their home, which is activated when any door is opened.

Ultimately, Heidi admits, for any child, autism or not, parenting is never easy.

“Just when you think you have it figured out, you don’t. We do our absolute best,” she said. “I feel so bad for that family. That could have happened to anyone, autism or not. It’s heartbreaking.” 

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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