Mother of Autistic Child Says Wandering Off is Common - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

Mother of Autistic Child Says Wandering Off is Common

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Preliminary autopsy results show 11-year-old Anthony Kuznia drowned in the Red River. It took 26 hours for emergency crews to find Anthony's body in the river yesterday after he disappeared Wednesday afternoon. His grandmother called police within just 10 minutes of him going missing but the boy was already too far away and couldn't be found. Today Valley News team's Eric Crest spoke with a mother of an autistic child about how all too often children with autism wander off and how more public understanding can help parents.

Autistic children like Oaklee Larsen can have a hard time taking cue's from their parents. I suppose they're like most kids in that respect.

"A lot of kids throw temper tantrums in grocery stores. You get the looks. All parents do. But for my son it could be something different. It could be the lights are too bright or It's way too loud in there," says Oaklee's mother Sarah Larsen.

Oaklee was diagnosed with autism at just 8 months old. At two and a half years old now his mother has reached out to autism support groups so that she can better understand what to expect. What she's learned is a lot of kids with autism can wander off.

"One woman her child ran off when she was just shuffling cards. Last summer my son ran off when I went inside to grab a sweatshirt. I mean thirty seconds is all it took," says Larsen.

After hearing the news yesterday of another child with autism who wandered off and made it into the Red River, Larsen's heart just sank.

"When I heard last night I was at work and I was balling my eyes out," says Larsen.

Because even if someone might have seen a child wandering without an adult prior to the search crews searching near the Red River. That doesn't always mean strangers act on their instincts.

"I know of families that their child has wandered off to the park and neighbors have seen them and just assumed the child was allowed to be there by themselves," says Larsen.

Many parents deal with the problem of wandering children but being in a rural area presents it's own challenges for parents with autistic children. Because out near Larsen's home there is water everywhere, the woods are empty, and odds are if your child doesn't respond to your voice it's hard to find them.

"If he's running and going after something he wants... it's the concept of the mind. He's so focused on that one thing... that my husband and I can be screaming stop, no, don't ... and he wouldn't understand," says Larsen.

If you see something out of the norm say something and try to understand that not all kids are built the same way.

"People need to be aware that this is very common it happens so easily and it takes seconds," says Larsen.

We talked with an autism specialist at Prairie Saint John's this afternoon and they told us every child with autism has a unique condition. There's no telling if a child who has autism will take direction from an adult or not. It's always a safe bet to call the police if you see a child wandering by themselves.

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