Autism advocates stress importance of keeping loved ones secure during stressful times

Just as National Autism Acceptance Month comes to a close, families continue to raise awareness of teens with autism who have been reported missing.

The Autism Society of Greater Phoenix is breaking down research on autistic teens and the concern that some of these kids are wandering off and putting themselves in danger.

Just last weekend, 17-year-old Dennis Harvey was reported missing in Phoenix, and just a few hours after speaking with his parents on May 7, they found their son.

However, Bradley Klose's family isn't breathing a sigh of relief. The 16 -year-old with autism has been missing since April 8.

Dennis Harvey Jr.'s parents say they struggle to keep their son with autism safe at night.

"He's not just a typical runaway teen. He does have special needs. Like I said, the cause and effect, he just does not comprehend. He doesn't get that," said Cathy Harvey.


Family of missing teenager with autism asks for help in search

The family of 16-year-old Bradley Klose is asking for help finding the teenager who has been missing for 11 days and suffers from autism. FOX 10's Lindsey Ragas has the story.

Olivia Fryer, executive director of The Autism Society of Greater Phoenix, says running away can be common for autistic young people.

"They might become overwhelmed with emotions and not sure how to handle the feelings that they're experiencing. By running away, that seems like the best option at that point in time," she explained.

Dennis' parents say their son sometimes reacts this way.

"Kids with autism, that's very common. They go in flight mode. They just take off because their brain can't comprehend whatever is going on at that time," Harvey said.

In Bradley Klose's case, the family said he walked out of work one day and never returned home.

"When I started hearing these safety concerns of what we call ‘elopement,’ which is when somebody can wander away. Whether it could be purposefully or maybe they're attracted to, let's say, a body of water, you know, that was something that instilled fear in me that I wanted to work with my own child and help others prevent those situations from happening," Fryer said.

Fryer also has a child with special needs. She says what's inside the home should protect them.

"We have more locks on our door to keep our children in and know at night that they're safe and secure versus worrying about keeping others out," Fryer said.

Because teens with autism are also more vulnerable to the internet, Autism Society of Greater Phoenix offers resources to families to prevent their child from having a conversation with someone they shouldn't talk to.

"You know, our kids sometimes struggle to make connections with others. We want to encourage them to build friendships, but they have to be able to do that in a safe environment," Fryer explained.

The Autism Society of Greater Phoenix offers a Safety 101 class for parents to keep their loved ones safe. They go over tips for parents as well as offer support.