Boy with autism drowns after wandering away from elementary school

FAYETTEVILLE (KFSM) — Five Vandergriff Elementary staff members have been placed on administrative leave, confirmed Alan Wilbourn, a district spokesperson.

The staff members were placed on administrative leave following the death of Adron Benton that happened Wednesday (March 8).

Benton, who was diagnosed with autism, wandered away from the school Tuesday (March 7), and was found nearby in a private pool.

He was initially taken to Washington Regional Medical Center, and was later taken to the Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock, where he died.

The school district is working with police to investigate the incident, and it is also conducting its own investigation.

The district also confirmed that a fence will be built around the play area within the next two or three weeks. The Arkansas Board of Education does not require schools to have a fence around playgrounds, unless the school has a preschool.



Education and training helps law enforcement search for missing children on the Autism Spectrum

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. – It’s any parent’s nightmare, the frantic moments when a child goes missing.

It’s what happened Wednesday afternoon when 6-year-old Jacob Powell went missing from his Caribbean Villas apartment.

It was a joint effort between West Palm Beach Police and the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office.

What made this case different, Jacob is on the Autism Spectrum.

“They said he was non-verbal,” said Officer Raymond Spinosa with the West Palm Beach Police Department.

While that doesn’t necessary change the actual search methods, it may change the strategy and more importantly how an officer approaches the child.

“We got out of the car and he immediately started to run.”

Spinosa found Jacob not too far from the apartments in less than an hour. He says he drew on training to decide how to handle the situation.

“Just being calm helped a lot,” said Spinosa.  “Basically what I did, I jiggled a water bottle he stopped came over gave me a hug.”

Nancy McBride with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in Florida says it’s that kind of training and education that can make a big difference.

“We found out that there was a high rate of these kids drowning or going to highways or railroad tracks,” said McBride.

That’s exactly why the organization is working to get the word out, showing a new video to dozens of law enforcement agencies in the area, including West Palm Beach Police.

“We wanted to do a roll call video for law enforcement to give them an idea of what to expect if a child with Autism is missing, the fact that these kids are all different.”

The goal of this specialized training and education is to ensure police and deputies know what to expect when search for a missing child that may be on the Autism Spectrum.

McBride says it’s important to speak with the child’s parents because no one child is alike.

Read more at:


Missing Haverhill boy found in darkness at edge of Atkinson pond

HAVERHILL — A 10-year-old autistic boy missing from his Haverhill home was found wandering in a rural area just over New Hampshire the line in Atkinson Sunday night.

The boy, who is autistic, went missing from his home on Sunday and was found several hours later in the darkness at a pond near the Atkinson Community Center.

Police said they began searching when the boy was reported missing. A woman who lives in Atkinson told police she was driving past the Community Center when she noticed a helicopter flying overhead.

The woman said she was driving home with her son after shopping in Plaistow when she noticed the low-flying search helicopter. She said that later she looked around the area and noticed the boy in the shallow water of a pond.

The woman said she and her son wrapped the soaked, but uninjured boy in a blanket and then notified police.

Atkinson Police Chief Albert Brackett said his department was notified about 7:30 p.m. by Haverhill police, who asked for help finding the boy. At that point, he had been missing for several hours.

Bracket said the search, which involved a State Police helicopter, was centered in the North Broadway area near the Atkinson line, and that it was reported the boy may have gone into Atkinson.

“We searched the area over the Massachusetts line in Atkinson as well, including the North Broadway, Juniper Lane and Forest Street area,” Brackett said. “At about 9 p.m., we were notified that an Atkinson woman had found the boy in the area of a small pond next to the Community Center and that he was wet and that she had wrapped the boy in a blanket.

“The information I received was that he’d been wading in the water and that the woman saw him at the edge of the water,” the chief said.

Brackett said the Community Center, on Route 121 just up from Leavitt’s Ice Cream stand, is about three miles from where the boy was reported missing. The Community Center is a short distance from where Hilldale Avenue in Haverhill meets Route 121 in Atkinson.

Brackett said the boy was autistic, and that when officers arrived, the boy did not speak.

He said a Haverhill police officer arrived on scene as well, along with a Trinity EMS ambulance, which took the boy to Lawrence General Hospital to be checked out.

Brackett said the boy appeared to be uninjured.

“It must have been scary for the parents,” Brackett said. “It was a good outcome and it was good to have the assistance of a citizen. We’re happy that the boy is safe.”



Columbus officers rescue boy with autism from retention pond

COLUMBUS, Ind. — A local mother is thankful for two officers whose training and quick action saved her son’s life. They rescued her son who has autism from a retention pond Sunday afternoon in Columbus.

Multiple neighbors called Columbus police saying they saw a boy walking near 25th Street and Lockerbie Drive with just his underwear on.

“Caleb found a new way to get out. He found to open up the window and kick out the screen,” mother, Paula Arnold said.

Paula was changing her clothes when her 12-year-old son Caleb got away and ended up in the retention pond. Off-duty Captain Brian Wilder and Officer Tony Kummer found Caleb quickly because of the community’s calls to 911. Right away, Officer Kummer said his yearly autism training through the department kicked in.

“Part of that training is how to deal with people that have autism so in my head I’m thinking maybe he doesn’t like to be touched, really loud sounds or siren for that case,” Officer Kummer said.

Officer Kummer spotted Caleb walking behind a home and that’s where he discovered the retention pond. He says the key was not to scare Caleb even if that meant letting him go into the water instead of yelling at him to stop.

“Captain Wilder and I went into the water. We both made contact with Caleb at the same time we were able to grab him and pull him out to shore and everything went as well as it could have,” Officer Kummer said.

“Both officers treated him with such compassion. I hate to say it I don’t if any other police officer without the training might have been a little more aggressive,” Paula said.

Caleb was unharmed and is back safely with his mom, who’s very thankful for a community of officers that knew just what do.

“Because they used no excessive force and he came out with not an injury so I’m very happy and very blessed,” Paula said.

Paula also wants to thank everyone who picked up the phone and called 911. She says this story could also inspire others to get training on how to interact with someone who has autism.



Md. officer saves 7-year-old girl with autism

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, MD (WUSA9) – A Montgomery County Officer is being credited with saving the life of a 7-year-old girl with autism named Sahara.

Sahara went missing March 4th, when she managed to get away from her baby sitter. Sahara, known as Mookie, was spotted at a playground, but again disappeared.

About 15 Montgomery Police Officers searched for her, but it was Officer Jonathan Pruziner that followed his instincts and a drainage pipe. He searched pools, the playground, but found Sahara suffering from hypothermia on her back near a pond.

It was only in the 30’s that day and the little girl did not have a coat. Sahara’s mom, Mary Wimpy, is a campus public safety officer. She knew she needed to thank her daughter’s hero. She was filled with emotion as she thanked him at the 5th District Station.

“That was my worst fear, when I got to her and saw her condition, she was pale, she was shaking, she was foaming at the mouth, I thought she was dying my arms, and that’s why I’m thankful to this officer because if he didn’t find her, she wouldn’t be here, she wouldn’t be here at all,” said Wimpy.

Officer Pruziner said he was so relieved to find the little girl. He says moments like this are why officers put on a uniform every day.



7-year-old with autism hit, killed in Franklin County

 — A 7-year-old died Monday night in a crash on Darius Pearce Road, officials said.

Ronnie Tanner Vick, of Youngsville, was walking west in the roadway just before 9 p.m., according to the North Carolina State Highway Patrol. Alix Feild, 29, of Youngsville, was driving a 1997 Buick in the same direction when Vick was hit.

After hitting the child, Feild continued down the road, leaving the scene before officers arrived, officials said.

Vick died at the scene.

Troopers located Feild a short time later at a “short distance” down the road.

Vick had autism and played baseball for the Miracle League of Franklin County.

A neighbor said his mother had gone to the bathroom and when she left the room she noticed the front door was open. Neighbors began to search for the child, but he made it about a mile up the road.

“It is just a horribly sad situation. It’s tragic,” said Jerry Hammack, who lives nearby. “As a parent you do everything you possibly can do to protect your children and even doing that, things can happen.”

Neighbors and friends said they are shaken to the core by the tragedy. They are now praying for the Vick family.

“It is something like that you don’t know what to say. It’s a very, very, very sad situation,” said Lee Pendleton, who lives near the Vick family.

Vick was a student at Bunn Elementary School, according to Franklin County Schools officials.

“The loss of any student – especially a young child – is unfathomably difficult,” said Patrick Glace, Director of Communications for Franklin County Schools. “As a district, our thoughts and prayers go out to the Vick family and we will continue to do everything we can to support them and our school community.”

The school has made guidance counselors available for students.

Read more at:



UPDATE: Teen with autism dies after being struck by an SUV

A 16-year-old boy with autism suffered serious injuries in a hit-and-run crash early Thursday morning.

The collision happened around 3:45 a.m. on East 31st Street near South Mingo Road. Witnesses told police they drove up on the victim walking in the middle of the road and turned around to check on him.

While they were checking on him, witnesses said they tried to stop a white Chevy Tahoe driving toward the child. The SUV struck the boy in front of the witnesses and drove away, according to police.

Police said the boy was taken to the hospital with massive head trauma and is now in an induced coma.

The victim’s mother told police that the boy left their apartment in the area without her knowing. She said the boy has low functioning autism.

Police said the driver of the SUV will face felony hit-and-run charges when he or she is caught.

Witnesses told police the driver went west on East 31st Street and north on Memorial Drive.

Read more at:


Glendale police use tracking device to find deaf man with autism reported missing

GLENDALE, CA – A 20-year-old deaf Glendale man with autism has been located in the Burbank wash after he was reported missing early Tuesday morning, authorities say.

Brandon — only his first name has been released — left his home in the 400 block of Allen Avenue without telling his family. Tahnee Lightfoot, a spokeswoman with the Glendale Police Department, said the man was wearing a tracking device that helped officers locate him in the wash near the Burbank and Glendale border.

It’s not exactly known how he was able to get down into the area but Lightfoot said there is a road near ABC Studios near the wash that Brandon could have used.

Read more at:


Colonie man with autism found with aid of Project Lifesaver

Colonie, NY – A 25-year-old man with autism who had wandered away from home early Saturday morning was found safe shortly after he was reported missing due in part to a special program called Project Lifesaver, according to a news release from Albany County Sheriff Craig D. Apple, Sr.

Authorities received call at 2:21 a.m. from the man’s mother who said she believed her son had climbed out a window of their Broderick Street home and was missing. The man who was wearing a Project Lifesaver FM transmitter was located unharmed within 18 minutes of the initial call about a half mile from home on Locust Park wearing only pajamas, Apple said. He was found by a member of the Sheriff’s Search and Rescue team working with members of the Colonie Police Department. Authorities believe the man entered into a home seeking warmth, Apple said.

“The quick response by everyone involved prevented a potentially dangerous situation and demonstrated that, along with good police work, the Project Lifesaver Program works”, Apple said.


Read more at:


Teen Reported Missing During Storm Found Safe In Neighbor’s Shed

FRANKLIN SQUARE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — This week’s nor’easter rattled nerves with its whipping wind and pounding rains, and in the middle of it an autistic teen wandered outside and got lost.

As CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan reported, it took 12 hours and a stranger with a big heart to get Joseph Barbella back after he walked out the front door of his Franklin Square home.

His parents’ backs were turned for a second, and the 16-year-old autistic youth became lost during the height of the nor’easter.

As wind blew and rain pounded the frightened teen found refuge in the backyard she of a stranger five blocks away.

“I acted on a whim. It was a hunch,” Michael Caputo said.

Caputo, a Hempstead town employee awoke to discover a frantic search had been launched 12 hours earlier for a missing autistic child. Caputo had recently screened a documentary about autism.

“Sometimes children with autism tend to find hiding places, and my shed looks like a clubhouse,” he said. “Just opened this up and this young man was lying here, and I didn’t want to startle him, didn’t want him to run away.”

Joseph was asleep — a golf bag and toys as a pillow.

Police arrived within minutes and alerted Joseph’s frantic parents.

“So filled with joy. Just wanting to run to the location. My son is with me all the time. We do everything together — a minute apart is tough,” John Barbella said.

Finding Joseph safe couldn’t have been better news for the Barbellas who have endured some hardships. Joseph’s mother is battling cancer, and undergoing chemotherapy.

“Very intense for us, my wife especially,” John said.

They were grateful moments for a hometown hero.

“His instincts were keen, his nature caring, and conscientious,” Hempstead Town Supervisor, Anthony Santino said, as he gave Caputo a key to the town.

“I am very flattered to be called a hero,” Caputo said. “I am just blessed. I was the final piece of the puzzle to get this boy home and safe.”

The true heroes he said were the volunteers, police, and other first responders who searched all night long.

Read more at:

Franklin Square Teen Reported Missing During Storm Is Found Safe In Neighbor’s Shed