The second time he went missing, Branan nearly called the police.
Her son, Joe, has autism — a condition characterized by impaired social behaviors. Nearly half of children with autism wander from safe environments, resulting in accidental deaths or missing persons cases. Due to difficulty with communication and fear of strangers, they might not be able to cooperate with search efforts.
The Hillsborough Police Department responded to Branan’s concerns by organizing the Autism Family & Friends Day, which will take place Saturday, to promote understanding of the disorder.
“We felt that it was an excellent opportunity to reach out more to autism families and show them that they have our support,” said Sr. Cpl. Tereasa King, co-organizer of the event.
Branan reached out to King a year ago to familiarize children with autism in the community with first responders.
“I have been reading in the past year about lots of these kids going missing in the news all over the country,” Branan said.
In the past year, Joe has wandered out alone two to three times, something he had never done before.
When the family goes on vacation, Branan sticks duct tape to her son’s back with her name and number.