After autistic teen’s safe return, Southington family discusses challenges

After autistic teen’s safe return, Southington family discusses challenges

SOUTHINGTON — When William Gibbons woke up early Tuesday morning, his wife informed him that his 15-year-old autistic son, Logan, was missing.

The family searched the house, and found almost every window locked and protected with an alarm. The lone exception was a tiny, 14-by-14-inch window in the downstairs bathroom, which Logan had used to leave.

“Essentially what he did was shimmy up the window, lay his stomach on top of it, and completely fall out the window,” William said.

A Silver Alert was issued for Logan. Hours later and several miles away from the family’s home on Carter Lane, Logan was located in the yard of a home near downtown Cheshire. The Gibbons family considers itself lucky following the incident, the fifth that has occurred in the past year.

“We are blessed every time someone speaks up and calls out, and says ‘Hey, I think I found that young man that’s missing,’ ” William said.

William said Logan’s behavior began to change when he started middle school after seven years at Hatton School

“That was a hard transition for him, coming from a school he had been with for seven years,” William said.

Logan began to experience difficulties expressing feelings verbally and physically. He soon began to sporadically leave his home unannounced, due to a need to release emotions.

“With a lot of autistic children, and like with my son, they show it many different ways,” William said.

“He likes to run,” William added. “He gets out of the house and he just goes.”

Though he has left the house about five times, he has not been injured.

“With a lot of these autistic kids, they do not understand the repercussions of getting hurt,” William said. “Our biggest fear when he gets out, is this going to be (the) time when he runs across the street and a car’s not going to see him.”

In the most recent incident, William estimated Logan left the house about 4 a.m. When he leaves, the family calls 911 and uses the Facebook group Southington Talks to spread the word. Family members and relatives also search for Logan.

On Tuesday about 10 a.m., Logan was found by a Cheshire woman in her yard on West Main Street, about six miles from his home. William said Logan was tired, hungry and dirty.

William briefly spoke to the woman after Logan was found.

“I just thanked her from the bottom of my heart,” he said.

William also credited the Cheshire and Southington police departments for their assistance.

“I can’t give them enough kudos for what they have done,” he said.

The family has taken precautionary measures by installing alarm systems and cameras throughout the home. But if Logan does get out, area town officials have trained first responders in the event they come in contact with the boy.

Cheshire Town Councilor Liz Linehan, a 103rd House District candidate, recently created the Logan Project, an initiative which involves training police officers, firefighters and emergency medical technicians in interacting with autistic children and adults.

Linehan said autistic children and adults may display signs similar to individuals under the influence of drugs or ones that are non-compliant with first responders. The program aims to teach first responders to distinguish such differences.

The first session was held with Cheshire police earlier this year. Linehan, a Democrat, hopes to take the program statewide by the end of 2017, and eventually, nationwide.

Her Republican opponent in the House race, Andy Falvey, also spoke in support of the concept.

“I’m fully in favor of anything we can do to help first responders better understand what they’re dealing with,” he said.
Twitter: @BryanLipiner


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