Preparing for a missing child with autism
Fourteen-year-old Avonte Oquendo was last seen leaving his school on Oct. 4 in Astoria, N.Y. He was wearing a grey striped shirt, black jeans and black shoes. Avonte is reported to have autism and is nonverbal.
View Avonte’s poster here: http://ow.ly/pWP2v. If you have any information about his location please contact us at 1-800-843-5678. Calls may be made anonymously.
At the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children we have seen a spike in the cases of missing children diagnosed with autism or related disorders. Many of these children are unable to communicate verbally, making it even more difficult for them to find the help they need.
For families of children with autism, one of the best means of prevention is preparation. While this growing trend is frightening, there are things we all can do to prepare.
Preparation is the best prevention
If a child with autism goes missing, immediately call local law enforcement. But also begin searching.
Those who are closest at the moment he or she goes missing will be the first to call law enforcement and the first begin the search. Early communication about the child’s habits is what will help these people know what to tell law enforcement and where to look.
They should know:
- Any particular interests the child has, such as water, roads, trains, trucks or lights.
- Anything that frightens the child like animals or loud noises.
- Any additional habits the child may have.
Communication is key
We recommend families talk to those closest to them — such as neighbors, teachers, friends and extended family — about the child’s habits.
Likewise, we recommend those closest to a child with autism talk to that child’s family about his or her habits.
We know that the first few hours after a child goes missing are the most important. Open communication between families of children with autism and others in that child’s life may help bring these children home faster.