News that an autistic Brooklyn teen has been found after wandering off Friday and that an autistic teen from Queens is still missing after vanishing Thursday highlights the need to increase autism awareness, says a local doctor who specializes in the disorder.
“The biggest thing we have to do as a society is educate not just teachers, but educate our policemen, our firemen, bus drivers. The entire society in general needs to understand that an autistic child or a child with any other developmental disabilities may appear 100 percent normal from the outside and yet be completely lost on the inside,” said Ruth Milanaik, DO, an attending physician at Cohen Children’s Medical Center.
In addition, Dr. Milanaik says that GPS tracking devices on a cell phone or worn as a type of bracelet may be a smart option autistic children and teens’ parents.
On Thursday, 18-year-old Aidan Norvez, who has type 1 diabetes failed to return home from Brooklyn Technical High School. The next day, Eliceo Cortez, 14, went missing from his Brooklyn school after opting to take a local bus instead of his regular school bus.
The circumstances surrounding their disappearances puzzle Dr. Milanaik.
“In general, the public should understand that autistic children and adults are safeguarded by the many layers of protection provided by their parents, educators and caregivers and, therefore, incidences of wandering are greatly decreased,” she said. “Autistic children or adults lost on buses or anywhere is not a normal occurrence secondary to the constant vigilance of caregivers. “
CLARIFICATION: After a response from Autism Speaks to this story, we want to clarify that autistic children and teens wandering away is a growing problem that the public needs to be aware of in order to help such individuals.