Missing boy found

Family and police review actions in search for teen. Andrew Grant is a whiz at chess, loves climbing trees, and is always up for chicken parmesan, chocolate, and even broccoli and carrots. But like most autistic children, he is afraid of sudden changes. So when police cars and canine units searched for him after he vanished Aug. 24, he panicked and came running home with blood streaming out of cuts he got in the woods outside his Myrtle Street home in Millis. Two days later, he left again, but this time he went much farther, triggering a four-day search involving about 600 people. Ultimately, rescue workers walking on a gravel road in Norfolk found Andrew Monday night, laying on his back behind a stone wall. With Andrew, 15, recuperating at Children’s Hospital in Boston last week before returning home, family members and town officials began grappling with what to do if this situation arises again — with Andrew or another child like him.
After he was found, police urged the boy’s grandparents, Richard and Audrey Grant, who have had custody of him since he was 5 years old, to get an electronic bracelet with Global Positioning System technology. It’s a device normally used to keep tabs on Alzheimer’s patients who may wander away. But family members, who are consulting with hospital officials, autism specialists, and Andrew’s new school, say that for now the focus is getting his life back to normal. Andrew, Richard Grant said, is ”going to need some time to unwind.” Meanwhile, Millis officials are considering whether to explore adopting some kind of program that could aid rescue workers in similar situations. ”Anything would help,” said Millis Fire Chief Warren Champagne. In some nearby towns, including Franklin and Medway, police departments have parents create binders of information about their special-needs children. The program is designed to give rescuers cues about what to do and not do in searching for a particular child. It was designed for situations just like this. ”It probably took us half a day to get a handle on Andrew and what he is like,” Champagne said. ”If they had a binder and we could learn about Andrew Grant, yeah, it would’ve been helpful.” Even if rescue workers had been warned of Grant’s aversion to dogs and loud noises, search efforts would not likely have changed much, Champagne said. Because of a concern that Grant may have been injured, he said, an all-out effort was necessary in the early stages. Still, after Grant had been missing for a few days, search efforts were altered slightly so as not to scare him any further. Helicopters stopped circling and news vehicles were relocated. The case has exposed local public safety officials to an issue they rarely encounter. Millis police Detective Domenic Tiberi, who helped lead the search efforts, has become an autism expert of sorts in recent days, using terminology he has picked up in the wake of Andrew’s disappearance. ”He ended up outside his comfort area,” Tiberi said. Even Richard and Audrey Grant have learned more about how autistic children process information. It is probable, they said, that their grandson experienced a ”sensory shutdown” once he realized that he had wandered too far from home. This, they say, has made it difficult for him to describe the ordeal. Andrew is generally an easy-going soul who is ”sociable in his own way,” according to Richard Grant, but he has recently become more moody and depressed. After complaining about how unhappy he was Thursday, he tipped over a piece of furniture, which prompted his grandfather to tell him gently but firmly not to do that. After tipping another piece of furniture on the family’s sun porch, Andrew bolted from the house. Now, family members are trying to decide how best to proceed. Although he was expected to return home Wednesday morning, the family opted to keep him under the watch of autism specialists at the hospital, which will give them more time to work with teachers and administrators at his new school, the BiCounty Collaborative in North Attleborough. On Thursday morning, relatives did not know exactly when he would be home, but they said they’ll be keeping close tabs on him. ”We’ll certainly be watching him very closely, I’ll put it that way, to the point where I’ll probably be getting up at night and making sure he’s in that bed,” Richard Grant said. http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2004/09/05/lessons_learned_from_ordeal/

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