Join the Meeting Place for Moms!
Talk to other moms, share advice, and have fun!

(minimum 6 characters)

Autism - Support Across the Spectrum Autism - Support Across the Spectrum

Half of All Autistic Kids Will Run Away, Tragedy Often Follows

Posted by on May. 2, 2013 at 8:26 PM
  • 14 Replies

Half of All Autistic Kids Will Run Away, Tragedy Often Follows

PHOTO: Savannah Martin

Within hours one day in April, two children went missing hundreds of miles apart from each other.

On the surface they appear to have little in common.

Angelo Messineo is a 16-year-old from Georgia. He was found alive on a horse farm four days after he disappeared from school on April 16. Alyvia Navarro, 3, of Wareham, Mass., was pronounced dead hours after she was reported missing, drowned in a pond near her grandmother's home, on the same day.

They are just two of the thousands of children who went missing last month.

But Angelo and Alyvia have one thing in common, and it's a trait shared with at least one child who goes missing every day in America. They are autistic.

Nearly half of all children with autism will run away and potentially go missing at least once before their 17th birthday, according to a study by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Of those who run away, what clinicians call "eloping," many will be found dead.

PHOTOS: Autistic Kids Who Run Away Often Beat the Odds

The numbers alone present a challenge for law enforcement authorities, who regularly rank searches for missing children among the most difficult work they do.

But finding children with autism -- who shirk when their names are called out, who run away at the sound of police sirens, who are afraid of the dogs sent to find them, and who naturally are comforted by burrowing and hiding -- makes a hard job even harder, investigators say.

One in 50 children is diagnosed annually with autism, a spectrum of neurodevelopment disorders marked by problems with social interaction and communication, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. As the number of children who are diagnosed increases, so too does the number of kids who run off, leaving rescuers to learn quickly how best to handle a unique set of challenges.

The stories of Angelo and Alyvia, and dozens of children like them, present two sides of a phenomenon still not entirely understood.

WATCH MORE: Autism Awareness Has NYC Turning Blue

On the one hand, autistic children are more likely to run away than unaffected children. When they do runaway, they are more likely to die than unaffected children. And more often than not, 91 percent of the time, those deaths are a result of drowning.

But what is so perplexing to researchers and rescuers are the stories like Angelo's. Stories of almost super-human rates of survival for young children with developmental disabilities, who manage to stay alive for days often in the wilderness and against staggering odds.

"It's a mystery," said Robert G. Lowery Jr. of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. "Time and again, we see cases where autistic children live longer and survive in harsher settings than unaffected children. We don't really know why. It might be that these children with autism have a diminished sense of fear, but it's astonishing."

Stories like Alyvia's are also all too common.

The 3-year-old girl was there, at her grandmother's side at their home at the Lakeside Trailer Park in Wareham, Mass., and a moment later she was gone. Twenty-five minutes later, her grandmother Valerie Navarro called the police. Police, fire, EMS, K-9 units and the nearby harbormaster began a search for the girl, who was discovered an hour later, according to Wareham police.

A patrol found the girl in a pond near her grandmother's home, and she was evacuated via helicopter to a hospital in Boston where she was later pronounced dead.

 More From ABC News
by on May. 2, 2013 at 8:26 PM
Add your quick reply below:
You must be a member to reply to this post.
Replies (1-10):
darbyakeep45
by Darby on May. 2, 2013 at 8:31 PM

Wow...

maciymommieof3
by on May. 2, 2013 at 8:44 PM

I know, right?                 sad

Quoting darbyakeep45:

Wow...


kajira
by Emma on May. 2, 2013 at 8:49 PM

I ran away from home before 17... i started running away from home around age 11... but a lot of that had to do with how I was being treated.

decembercherish
by on May. 2, 2013 at 10:01 PM

i ran away at 15 but it was other things

MistyMoo
by Bronze Member on May. 2, 2013 at 10:04 PM
I'm worried that my son will run away because for some reason he keeps sayin he going to find a new family.. So on top of that worry, there hurt too because he's saying that.. I don't know.. I just hope he doesn't run away..
JoshRachelsMAMA
by JRM on May. 2, 2013 at 10:29 PM
My son has run away at least 10 times. It was always because there was something he wanted or someplace he wanted to go. We fortunately taught him to swim at six years old, since we lived on Staten Island in NYC. He hasn't eloped in almost two years, but I'm always vigilant. We have an alarm system and all the exit points beep when opened in the house. We have a German shepherd that ghosts him even inside the house.
He will be 17 on the 22nd.

We do the best we can.
LaurieMomof4
by on May. 2, 2013 at 11:49 PM

My 6 year old son has gotten out of our house 3 times, he's gotten away from them at special Ed kindergarten at least 10 times. This is my biggest fear.

TheLadyAmalthea
by Bronze Member on May. 3, 2013 at 12:35 AM

Yeah, my 5 year old son got pretty far from home. Fortunately, there was a group of people who pulled over to the side of the road and they were trying to help him. It happened a few weeks ago. It still makes me cry. We now have electronic locks on our doors that you have to enter a code on a keypad to unlock. It also automatically locks itself after 30 seconds of being unlocked. He hasn't figured it out. It was $200. I'd pay even more to keep him safe. This stuff keeps me awake at night. It is a serious problem.

girl_incognito
by on May. 3, 2013 at 6:21 AM

Me too I was around 15 when it started. Mine was home related too.

My son use to elope a lot between the ages of 2 and 12.... He wanders some still, but nothing like before.  There was once when he was around 5 or 6 he ran off and I couldn't find him, it was at night. We lived in the country, the property was not lit up. I was absolutely terrified. Usually when he eloped he went to a familiar place... which was next door to my in laws, but they had moved... he ended up at my husband's uncle on the tract of land behind us... What pissed me off is they had my kid and didn't even call me to come get him. We had a creek that ran behind the house and we did have wild animals, I had so many thoughts running through my head that night... UGH...

Quoting kajira:

I ran away from home before 17... i started running away from home around age 11... but a lot of that had to do with how I was being treated.


girl_incognito
by on May. 3, 2013 at 6:44 AM

By the time mine was about 10, he was night wandering through the house. So I was afraid he may just wander right outside. So we ended up putting an alarm on his bedroom door at night.

I have one of those keypad locks for my bedroom, but it's not for the same safety reasons you mentioned. Ths things are expensive and they are neat. If he ever figures it out, you can change the code.

Quoting TheLadyAmalthea:

Yeah, my 5 year old son got pretty far from home. Fortunately, there was a group of people who pulled over to the side of the road and they were trying to help him. It happened a few weeks ago. It still makes me cry. We now have electronic locks on our doors that you have to enter a code on a keypad to unlock. It also automatically locks itself after 30 seconds of being unlocked. He hasn't figured it out. It was $200. I'd pay even more to keep him safe. This stuff keeps me awake at night. It is a serious problem.


Add your quick reply below:
You must be a member to reply to this post.
Join the Meeting Place for Moms!
Talk to other moms, share advice, and have fun!

(minimum 6 characters)