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Missing teen with autism found after two-night search with hundreds of volunteers

/ 01:46 PM June 10, 2020

A teenager with autism who went missing during a hike in Victoria, Australia, was found and reunited with his family today, June 10.

The search came to a close after over 500 volunteers, together with the police and emergency services, looked for him in the bushland of Mount Disappointment, The Guardian reported.

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A local, Ben Gibbs, who is familiar with the area, found William Callaghan, 14, wandering the bush.

“He was just about 15 meters from me just standing there, just really angelic, just standing there,” he recalled. “I heard that he liked ‘Thomas the Tank [Engine]’ so I just talked to him about Diesel and Bertie and stuff like that… just to calm him down.”

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William went walking with his family to the summit of Mount Disappointment on Monday, June 8. He got lost after he rushed ahead of them at around 2:20 p.m., Brisbane Times reported yesterday, June 9.

Given that William has non-verbal autism, Acting Inspector Christine Lalor said “the best way to communicate with him is to be patient and calm.”

Police advised hand gestures in getting his attention. They also told locals to leave water and food, such as Vegemite and feta cheese, out on their verandas, and to keep windows open if they were cooking.

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Searchers played the “Thomas the Tank Engine” theme song on loudspeakers, while some pitched tents and searched for him non-stop during the night. His schoolteachers were brought in to call out his name in case he would respond to a familiar voice.

There were worries for his well-being given that he only had trackpants and a hoodie on, and temperatures at night could go below zero.

While searches were underway, his mother, Penny, remained hopeful, stating, “He has an intellectual disability and he’s very smart in his own way.”

“I’m feeling positive because he’s quite resilient. He is very skinny. You know, he doesn’t have much padding on him, but he eats all the time, he’s always on the move. He’s very active, so he’s quite fit.”

After he was found, Lalor said he was eating and drinking and, like any teen, wanted some fast food. Niña V. Guno /ra

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TAGS: Australia, autism, Missing person, search and rescue
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