Three-year-old Cameron Thomas had his whole life to live. He also had autism. We do not know whether he wandered before, but yesterday evening he did and it was deadly.
Cameron’s parents reported him missing around 6.15 pm. His godmother appealed for help finding the “beautiful blond haired, blue eyed baby.” So many people answered her appeal that officials asked some to go home. Hours later searchers found Cameron’s body in a marsh near his home in Chesapeake, Virginia. His parents’ pain is unimaginable.
Autism and Wandering – Facts
Although there are still a lot of mysteries about autism, we know some facts about autism and wandering. Almost half of children with autism try to run away or wander from a safe environment. Fifty percent of these children are successful and wander off. Drowning is the single biggest cause of death when a child with autism wanders.
Many people do not realize that the Amber Alert system only applies to child abductions, not children missing for other reasons. The Silver Alert system does not apply to children with autism wandering. So, there isn’t a uniform alert or response system in place to respond to these incidents.
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) introduced a bill to Congress that would provide grants to law enforcement agencies to (1) reduce the risk of injury and death relating to the wandering characteristics of some individuals with autism and other disabilities, and (2) safeguard the well-being of individuals with disabilities during interactions with law enforcement.
Avonte was autistic. His mother warned his teacher that he liked to run and would try to leave the building. On Oct. 4, 2013 he did just that. Despite intensive searches, his remains were not found until 3 months later. They washed up on a riverbank several miles from his school. Avonte’s law is with the Senate Committee on the Judiciary.
What can we do about autism and wandering?
Even if you don’t have a child with autism, we need everyone’s help to raise awareness of autism and wandering and save the lives of children with autism.
Read 9 Ways to Prevent and Respond to Autism Wandering and share with your friends and family.
Encourage families of children with autism to get a Big Red Safety Box – a “free-of-charge toolkit given to autism families in need as a means to educate, raise awareness and share simple tools that may assist them in preventing, and responding to, wandering-related emergencies.”
Help prepare first responders to respond to wanderng incidents. Every child with autism is different. First responders must know where and how to look for children with autism. Print out the toolkit for first responders and bring copies to your local police and other first responders in your neighborhood.
Raise #AutismWanderingAwareness among the general public by sharing this short video from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children:
Print out this Infographic and post on local notice boards.
Please share. Help raise #AutismWanderingAwareness!