Wednesday, October 16th, 2013
This is a post in the weekly Autism Hopes series by Lisa Quinones-Fontanez, a mom who blogs over at AutismWonderland.
Twelve days ago, on Friday, October 4, 2013, 14-year-old, Avonte Oquendo, walked out of his Long Island City (Queens, New York) public school. Avonte is autistic and non-verbal and is described as having a 7- to 8-year-old mentality. He was last seen wearing a gray striped shirt, black jeans and black sneakers. Avonte is 5-foot-3 and 125 pounds.
Ever since hearing about Avonte, I cannot help but be emotionally connected this story. It’s just too close to home. As a mother to a young son with autism, I know how real wandering is and how this is every parent’s nightmare. Living in New York City (and growing up in Queens), I am familiar with the area. My son, Norrin, attended public school for a year. And for the last few days, I’ve heard subway announcements about Avonte – something I’ve never heard when a child has gone missing.
This isn’t the first time I’ve written about a missing child with autism and I wish I could say that Avonte will be the last. But according to a study conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics, “Nearly half of all children with autism will run away and potentially go missing at least once before their 17th birthday.” Tragically, when a child with autism wanders away, they are usually found dead.
I am hoping, praying this will not be the case with Avonte. I want to continue to have hope that he will be found and reunited with his family and loved ones.
Since Avonte’s disappearance, his family has set up a command center (a blue tent) near the school for those wanting to assist with the search effort. And Avonte’s older brother, Danny Oquendo, has taken to social media for help. He’s tweeting (@KingDetrick) updates and using the hashtag #FindAvonte.
I was especially moved by this tweet yesterday:
— Holly Robinson Peete (@hollyrpeete) October 15, 2013
But Holly Robinson Peete isn’t the only celebrity tweeting to help and spread the word, so has Renee Graziano of VH1′s Mob Wives, NBC anchor Darlene Rodriguez and Melissa Harris Perry of the Melissa Harris Perry Show.
But you don’t have to be a celebrity with thousands of followers on Twitter to share Avonte’s photo. You can email his photo or share it on Facebook. Keep your eyes open during your commute. This is not a parent thing, autism thing or New York City thing. It’s a human thing. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes for two seconds. By now, Avonte could be anywhere. We have to keep this story alive until Avonte is found.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Police Department’s Crime Stoppers hot line at (800) 577-TIPS. There is also a $70,000 reward. And if you would like to volunteer please go to the blue tent near the Riverview School at 1-50 51st Avenue in Long Island City, Queens – there are individuals stationed 24/7.Add a Comment
Tags: autism, Autism Hopes, Disability, health, Lisa Quinones Fontanez, Special needs, special needs parenting, wandering | Categories: Autism, Children With Special Needs, Disability, Must Read, Special Needs, Special Needs Parenting, To The Max