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Calls to Action

Joyful Ending to Wandering Case

January 30, 2014

New York (January 30, 2014) - A twelve-year-old boy from Queens is back in the arms of his mother after wandering from home this morning.

It is an example of how successful a quick and united response can be to find missing children with autism.

Brandon Betancourt’s mom was reportedly putting his sibling on the bus around 7 a.m. when he ran from her. She immediately called 911 and a search was launched.

Local reporters monitoring police scanners and social media outlets picked up on the search, as did our family services department at Autism Speaks.

“As soon as Autism Speaks learned that Brandon had wandered and was missing we immediately notified our partner, The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, so they could offer assistance to law enforcement,” said Lindsay Naeder, Autism Speaks autism response team manager.

Brandon was found about five hours later on a subway platform nearly six miles away from his home. It was apparent he had taken a train.

“We are so happy to hear Brandon was located safe and sound. Brandon’s mother absolutely did the right thing by immediately calling 911. We know wandering by children with autism is common, dangerous and puts tremendous stress on families. I encourage any family of someone with autism prone to wandering to contact Autism Speaks to learn about resources available keep your loved ones safe,” Naeder said. Autism Speaks’ wandering tips and safety information can be found here.

Today’s case comes on the heels of the tragic death of Avonte Oquendo who wandered away from his school in October of last year, just miles from where Brandon Betancourt bolted from his other. Avonte’s remains were discovered two weeks ago in New York’s East River.

Autism Speaks has been at the forefront of creating a national plan to counter wandering in the United States. Faced with the grim statistic that nearly half of all the three million children, teens and adults with autism in the nation are prone to wandering, Autism Speaks and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children created an internet portal to raise wandering cases to a national level right after they are reported. The portal is found at www.autismspeaks.org/wandering.

At the same time, Autism Speaks has joined Senator Charles Schumer’s call for voluntary tracking devices for people with autism. Wednesday, Attorney General Eric Holder answered that call, promising to make existing grant money available immediately to police departments from around the country.

Tracking devices can be worn as bracelets, attached to a person’s shoe or belt loop, or can be sewn into clothing.

“Investments in tracking devices and other support systems are critical to the safety and well-being of individuals affected by autism,” said Liz Feld, president of Autism Speaks. “Attorney General Holder’s statement is an important step in the broader effort to educate and raise awareness about the issue of wandering within the autism community. We are encouraged by his commitment as we all work to ensure that Avonte Oquendo did not die in vain.”