OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A Dallas family, originally from Oklahoma, is pleading for change after an 8-year-old boy with autism drowned in an apartment pool.
Keydall Jones was getting ready to leave for school on April 30th when he bolted from his mother.
Wandering or “eloping behavior” is extremely common for autistic children.
His aunt, Jazmin Crowley, says this time, he got away too quickly and headed straight for the pool.
“He ran directly into the pool because the apartments did not have a gate around the pool,” she said.
Crowley says the family searched for hours on end with no success.
They called the police but because Keydall did not meet the description for an Amber Alert, one was not issued.
“What does the description look like when you have an autistic, non-verbal child who has eloped, who has walked off?”
24 hours later, his body was found.
“There’s no reason he should have been there for 24 hours,” said Crowley.
Stacey Weddington, an autism expert with AutismOklahoma.org, says drowning is the number one cause of death for children with autism.
“Water for some reason has a very soothing and calming effect, so they often are drawn to water to seek that calm,” said Weddington.
Crowley wonders if they would have found Keydall sooner if an alert was issued.
Weddington says when autistic kids go missing, time is crucial.
“If there’s a way to kind of bypass some of that time limit on an Amber Alert if you know that the child does not verbally communicate and is on the autism spectrum, you know that could make a huge difference,” said Weddington.
Now, Keydall’s family is pushing for a new kind of alert. One that would immediately alert surrounding communities of disabled kids who are missing and might be in danger.
“We want to advocate for the Keydall alert because there’s no reason that there should not have been an alert to the community.”
Resources are available for Oklahoma families with children with autism.