ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – The Department of Children and Families is investigating whether every precaution was taken after a six-year-old boy with autism slipped out of his home Sunday night.
Hearing the news brought back bad memories for Twila Martin.
“When I woke up, the police woke me up,” said Martin.
She lives not too far from where the child was found.
Martin’s son slipped out when he was a toddler, 40 years ago, through a screen door with one lock.
“Accidents happen, and what I did, I put about four locks on that screen so he couldn’t get out no more,” said Martin.
The father in this case contacted St. Petersburg police when he realized his son was the one that was found.
Investigators said it is unlikely the father will face charges.
“At this point in our investigation, we have no reason to believe any weird circumstances. It looks like this family had done what they could to keep the child in the home,” said Yolanda Fernandez with the St. Petersburg Police Department.
Not all cases have a happy ending.
A six-year-old child with autism in Lakeland drowned in a retention pond behind his home back in August.
Deputies say Adam Roach opened the door and walked out.
“It’s just high vigilance,” said Jean Charles, with Behavior Health Now.
Charles said many autistic children don’t understand the risk.
“‘If I do this, then this will happen,’ that connection is really difficult to make and it has to be very specifically taught,” she said.
Charles also said there’s a reason the child is leaving.
“If we can figure it out, then we can prevent it, “ said Charles. “Perhaps they think, ‘this is the time the ice cream truck comes by’ or something of that nature.”
She said safe guarding the home is key.
“I would definitely rely on a secure alarm system that is on when the child is in the home and the parent can’t supervise them,” she said.
Police said the home is secure with alarms and locks, but the child was still able to get out.
The child was taken to a health facility to be checked out and appeared to be okay.
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