Reward Now More Than $70,000 in Search for Queens Boy

New York (October 11, 2013) -- The reward for the safe return of Avonte Oquendo is now more than $70,000. 

Avonte Oquendo, a fourteen-year-old boy with autism from Queens, N.Y., has been missing since last Friday afternoon.  Avonte, who is nonverbal and according to his family has the mental capacity of a seven-year-old, was last seen on video surveillance running out the door of his school in Long Island City at approximately 12:45 p.m.  On Thursday, police released an updated photo of Avonte.

Supporters of the reward include David Perecman of the Perecman firm; Health First, the boy’s mother Vanessa's employer; Suzanne and Bob Wright, Autism Speaks co-founders; Mayerson & Associates, a Manhattan law firm; Manhattan Children's Center, a not-for-profit private autism school; and an anonymous donor.

Thomas Gelb, one of the founders of the Manhattan Children’s Center, said:  “All of us at MCC are praying for Avonte’s safe return and hope that these additional funds might enhance the public awareness about the search for Avonte.”

Mr. Gelb expressed concern over the kind of security measures that would allow a non-verbal child with autism to walk out of a public school in the middle of the day. “Knowing the vulnerability of this population, and that autism is a pervasive developmental disorder, it is to be anticipated that some students may attempt to leave the classroom. Schools need to have security systems in place, including redundant systems, to ensure that a student does not actually make it out the front door.”

Anyone with information was asked to contact the New York Police Department’s Crime Stoppers hot line at (800) 577-TIPS.

Wandering by children with autism is common, dangerous and puts tremendous stress on families. Autism Speaks wants to remind families of the resources available and the advice to follow to keep your children safe. To check out our wandering resources, click here.