By: Naomi Delgado
The search expanded on Oct 4. Avonte Oquendo went missing when he ran out of his school in Long Island City, Queens. Avonte is 14-years-old, 5’3” and weighs 125 lbs. He is black and has brown eyes. He was last seen wearing a grey striped shirt, black jeans, and black shoes.
Avonte is an autistic child in need of help, and is unable to communicate verbally.
“Autism is a developmental disorder that appears in the first three years of life, and affects the brain’s normal development of social and communication skills.” Said in the National library of Medicine online.
The AMBER alert was dispatched immediately. The media played a big part on letting everyone know Avonte’s description. The media announced his disappearance. The family and the NYPD provided fliers. “Fliers with the NYPD logo are provided by the police,”an NYPD official said.
The MTA and the NYPD have united to find Avonte. Avonte’s parents say he is fascinated with trains, so the MTA has been announcing a description of Avonte.
“I have seen fliers on train’s stations and in streets and heard about it on the news and on the trains,” said Jinnette Grullon, a junior at John Jay. “I have heard the announcements on the trains, been hearing them for more than two weeks.”
“The MTA was contacted by NYPD, due to the nature of the missing child not being able to speak. This is the first time from my knowledge that the MTA has assisted in this manner in an effort to find anyone,” NYPD officials said.
“The MTA officials took the unprecedented step of halting overnight track maintenance and ordered at least 200 workers to instead scour the tunnels for Avonte Oquendo, a missing, 14 year old, autistic boy,” Daily News online said.
This has been one of the first times the MTA has taken a big part of a search for a missing child. Avonte’s fascination for the trains has made the police believe that there is a possibility he can be found there.
The search expanded from Queens to Manhattan to other boroughs hoping to find Avonte safe. Since he is autistic, certain measures need to be taken when approaching him. Are people being informed of how to come close to an autistic child?
“I would hold him and get someone else to call the police. I know it might scare him but desperate needs call for desperate measures,” Grullon said.
“I work with autistic kids so I know that they are very sensitive so I would approach him very calmly and be as friendly as I could be and once I know he cant leave my sight, I’d call 911 as soon as possible,” said John Jay senior Roxana Teran. Teran is also an assistant teacher at the Bronx Organization for the Learning Disabled, or B.O.L.D.
More information should be given in school to inform students and other people how to interact with an autistic child. NBC News segment, informed viewers to,“Call the tip line to let them know. Follow or keep an eye on Avonte but don’t necessarily approach or touch him. Keep him in your sight and communicate with law enforcement.”
Information regarding what autism is and how to help a person with this condition should be directed. “I think that every school should inform the students of how to approach an autistic child in case they see him,” said Teran.
“I know what autism is. It’s a disorder in the brain, which interferes with social interactions. Autistic children can’t function socially like other children can and usually are fascinated on one certain thing like trains, cars, toys, etc., I think,” said Grullon.
The search for the autistic teen is still in action and there is hope that more volunteers join the search. A red tent has been put outside Avonte’s school. Volunteers can meet at the tent that is located in Long Island City, Queens near Riverdale School.
“I would volunteer for Avonte’s search,” said Terran. “I can’t even imagine how his parents are feeling. They must be devastated.”
Avonte’s parents do not lose hope that their son is alive. Avonte’s mom asks for the search to continue in hope that one day they find him.
A study done by a psychologist Christopher Chabris of Union College in Schenectady, N.Y. has shown that people tend to pay attention to one thing at a time. People are so caught up in their everyday life that they don’t stop to see what may be happening around them.
The Minn Post online said that “inattentional blindness” is the failure to see visible and otherwise salient events when one is paying attention to something else.” It also uses the term “illusion of attention” which is “the common but mistaken belief that people pay attention to, and notice, more of their visual world than they actually do.”
The way a person distributes his attention to their everyday tasks determines how much each task is completed and to what perfection. A person can try to focus their attention to more than one thing but their attention to each task wont be equally distributed. Multitasking is possible but to a certain extent.
Charles Stone, a Cognitive Psychology professor at John Jay said, “In the ‘inattentional blindness’ research, what tends to happen is they would have people focus all their attention on one task. So if I’m focusing on you and something else is going around, I might not notice it. However if I have a diffuse attention span, I will notice what is going on.”
“If people are in the subway and they are too focused on their own thought or on their own music they won’t notice anything around them possibly, and I think that on the subway there is a lot of pressure to be like that.” Professor Stone said. “You just want to get into your own zone and you don’t make eye contact with other people, you just focus on your day, what you’ve done, so if they are focus so strong on that they are using all their attention resources they won’t notice [Avonte].”
Train riders in particular tend to focus on their own life and feel the constant need to avoid looking at others to avoid any altercations. They are either using their gadgets or reading the newspaper.
“I don’t really pay attention to anyone in the train. I’m either listening to music or playing candy crush on my phone,” Karla Flores, a senior at John Jay, said. “It helps me avoid problems with some crazy people in the train.“
Avoiding conflict by making eye contact or having too many things in mind might prevent some people from being able to use diffused attention allowing them to be able to see more than what they see, giving Avonte a chance to be found.
“We just want to request that everybody take five minutes just to look. If we pay a little more attention to each other, we may be able to see things,” Avonte’s dad said in an online article called The Stir.
If you or anyone you know, knows some information on Avonte Oquendo please contact NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS. You can also contact Det. Michael Donleavy at 718-520-9252.