By Kerry Magro
One of the more talked-about topics we have in our autism community today is that of wandering. This escalated last fall because of the wandering case of Avonte Oquendo, a 14-year-old boy with autism from Queens who eloped from his Long Island City school. After months of searching, Avonte’s body was found in the East River. I attended a press conference held by Senator Schumer (D, NY) later that month with Avonte’s mother. It was one of the saddest events I had ever attended. So my heart dropped when last weekend we had another 14-year-old boy with autism, Eliceo Cortez from Brooklyn, New York, go missing. After a friend of mine saw the story on Fox 5 NY Facebook Page this weekend he asked me a question that changed the way I’ve looked at wandering. He asked, “Do you think because the boy looks like an adult he’ll receive the same attention as Avonte did?”
It was a question that I didn’t really have a strong opinion on up to that point. Two boys, both from the New York area, both 14, looked nothing alike to me although they were the same age. Avonte, who was 5’3 and 118 pounds, looked like a boy to me while Eliceo was 6’1 and 135 pounds and to me looked like he could very well be 18 years of age and a young adult. Fortunately, Eliceo was found in three days. But I began to consider whether we pay enough attention to adults who elope.