FOREST Park, Ill. (CBS) — The tragic story of Kyrin Carter, the 12-year-old with autism found dead in the Little Calumet River Tuesday, serves as a very important reminder to educate those around us about autism elopement — when a child or adult with autism wanders away.
Debra Vines is the founder and CEO of The Answer Inc., and her organization teaches workshops aimed at preventing elopement from happening. CBS 2’s Suzanne Le Mignot spoke with two women who took part in one of those workshops.
“It just sends chills through me,” said mother Andrea Williams-Byas. “He just walked right out and probable went right to the water.”
Williams-Byas fought back tears as she thought about 12-year-old Kyrin. The boy wandered away from a Hammond hotel last week while visiting from Minnesota. Days later, his body would be found in the Little Calumet River.
Williams-Byas’ 41-year-old son Darian also has autism.
“They really like water, cause he likes the water parks and all like that,” she said.
Several years ago, Darian wandered away from his parents when they were at a restaurant.
“My husband did find him, thank God. He was pouring sweat, just huffing and puffing,” she said. “That moment was a wake up call to always check in the back, because he’s nonverbal. He’s not going to say much. It was so like earthshaking to me. That’s when I contacted The Answer.”
Williams-Byas said she attended elopement workshops at The Answer, Inc. The Forest Park non-profit is dedicated to helping people of color with Autism in underserved communities. Vines says evidence based training shows there are things you can do to prevent elopement.
“Tell your family members and friends all of your child’s habits — whether they like to run away, if they’re attracted to certain things,” said Vines.
Vines says it’s important to also know the elopement triggers for a person with Autism.
“Water, music, shiny things, animals, unfamiliar places, unfamiliar people, there are so many triggers, but those are some of the main ones.”
Vines said people at her workshops often tell her at first they were afraid to get the help, but they realized they needed to reach out to get the help they needed. She wants to make sure that people know they are not alone.
Find all of these resources on The Answer Inc’s website.