Autistic toddler who wandered away from Round Mountain area home found safe

ROUND MOUNTAIN, Calif., — Reports of a 3-year-old non-verbal autistic boy who disappeared from his Round Mountain area residence kicked off a frantic, multi-agency search that ended when the young wanderer was located yesterday afternoon, Friday, March 11.

The ensuing search focused on the area of Buzzard Roost Road where the child was last seen and continued until the missing boy was located in the 29000 block of SR-299E, about a half-mile from Buzzard Roost Road.


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Deputies from the Shasta County Sheriff’s Burney Station were alerted to the child’s disappearance around 9:30 a.m. and immediately initiated a search that soon involved California Highway Patrol and citizens, who responded to the area to assist in searching for the child.

Initial reports indicated the boy, identified only as “Ethan”, had already been missing for at least twenty minutes at the time of the initial 911 call.

A CHP helicopter is seen coming in for a landing after a missing autistic 3-year-old was found wandering on a rural mountain property about a half-mile from Buzzard Rood Road where the child disappeared from. Les Potter photo

Based on the circumstances, deputies quickly requested additional resources including air support, at which time a CHP – Northern Division Air Ops helicopter was launched to the area.

A Code Red emergency alert notification soon followed, with alert messages sent out to all residences within a mile of where the boy had disappeared. The notification requested that all area residents check their properties for the boy, who was described only as 3-years-old and wearing black shoes.

Administered by Shascom911, Code Red Alerts notify targeted citizens in the event of emergency situations or critical community alerts and can be signed up for here.


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As the search continued, officials and citizens alike were seen scouring the area via quads and off-road vehicles, with a heavy focus on the nearby Cedar Creek, which runs adjacent to the highway and passes by the property from where the child went missing.

With CHP’s H-14 searching from above, and deputies, citizens, and other emergency personnel searching from the ground, word was soon received that the missing boy had been located wandering on a rural mountain property, much to the relief of all those assisting in the search.

Although officials have not yet released any information about the now-resolved crisis, the child was reported to be safe and unharmed and was described as being in “good spirits”. He was even seen taking the time to play with an official’s radio while waiting to be evaluated and treated for any possible injuries sustained during his unplanned adventure.

Experts have long acknowledged that children living with autism are prone to wandering and have provided a number of suggestions and resources to help parents fearful of their children going missing.

Yesterday’s disappearance was just the latest to involve autistic children wandering away from their Shasta County area homes, including another Round Mountain incident that occurred in October of last year that also involved an “autistic and non-verbal” three-year-old who went missing while walking with his father on their rural mountain property. While similar in circumstances, location, and description, it was not immediately known if this latest incident involved the same child.

Other similar incidents include a four-year-old autistic girl who was rescued after tumbling seventy feet down a cliff overlooking the Sacramento River in June 2020. As reported by SCNS at the time, she was found several hours after wandering away from her Redding home.

Another 2019 incident involved a 10-year-old boy with autism who disappeared from his Lakehead area home. In that case, the missing child spent more than ten hours “lost and wandering”, as overnight temperatures dipped into the low 30s. He was eventually found about a mile from his home, after a resident in a secluded and heavily wooded area near Interstate 5 heard the boy crying out for help.

Experts nationwide have strongly suggested that parents living with children on the Autism Spectrum consider GPS tracking devices that can be worn or hidden within their children’s clothing. (Click image to view interview.)

Advocates for those with autistic children have long acknowledged that children living with autism are known for being able to escape the confines of their homes, and often go wandering, sometimes leading to frantic responses and exhaustive searches.

As reported by, the first study to quantify the scope of the problem involving autistic children who go wandering was first published in Pediatrics in 2012.

The results of the study were “significant” and revealed that of the 1,218 children with ASD who were studied, “almost half of those children had wandered off from home, school, or another safe place at least once after age 4.”

“Many were missing long enough to cause concern, were in danger of drowning, or were at risk of being hurt by traffic,” Healthy Children explained.

To help with the problem, the American Academy of Pediatrics has listed the following suggestions:

  • Know wandering triggers. Children with ASD can be impulsive and typically wander or bolt from a safe setting to get to something of interest, such as water, the park, or train tracks—or to get away from a situation they find stressful or frightening, such as one with loud noises, commotion, or bright lights.
  • Secure your home—regardless of your child’s age. Shut and lock doors that lead outside. Consider putting alarms on doors to alert you if a door has been opened.
  • Work on communication and behavior strategies. Teaching your child strategies to self-calm when stressed and appropriately respond to “no” can make a big difference. Make sure your child’s teachers and other family members understand how important it is to keep your child engaged and busy to reduce his or her urge or opportunity to wander.
  • Set expectations. Before going out in a public place, communicate the plan with your child and other family members—including the timeline and rules to follow. Consider noise-canceling headphones if noise is a trigger, and use the “tag-team” approach to make certain your child is always supervised by a trusted adult.
  • Consider monitoring technology and identification. More than 1/3 of children with ASD who wander are never or rarely able to communicate their name, address, or phone number. It may be helpful to have things like GPS devices, medical alert tags, and even their name marked in clothing. Project Lifesaver and SafetyNet Tracking or other programs may be available through your local law enforcement agencies.
  • Rest. Children with ASD may be less hyperactive and less likely to wander during the night if they have a sleep management plan and a regular sleep schedule. Caregivers who get enough sleep are also more vigilant. Many children with ASD may have sleep problems. If your child is having problems going to sleep or staying asleep, talk to your pediatrician for further evaluation and treatment.

Experts also suggest GPS tracking devices for children prone to wandering, including wearable devices that can be found through various distributors such as industry-leading Angel Sense, as well as Jiobit and Care Trak – also known as Project Lifesaver.

According to manufacturers, these wearable devices can be used to provide a child’s real-time location with trusted family members and friends, as well as first responders, teachers, and neighbors in the event of an emergency and are the best resource to quickly bring a wandering child home safe.

For more information about how to deal with and manage the wandering tendencies of those with autism, visit Healthy Children, Autism Speaks, or Very Anxious Mommy.

Contact the writer:

Trevor Montgomery, 51, moved in 2017 to the Intermountain area of Shasta County from Riverside County and operates Riverside County News Source (RCNS) and Shasta County News Source (SCNS), which act as stringer-news providers for other mainstream media organizations throughout the two regions they serve.

Additionally, he writes or has written for several other news organizations; including Riverside County based newspapers Valley News, Valley Chronicle, Anza Valley Outlook, and Hemet & San Jacinto Chronicle; the Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County; and Mountain Echo in Shasta County. He is also a regular contributor to Thin Blue Line TV and Law Enforcement News Network and has had his stories featured on news stations throughout the Southern California and North State regions.

Trevor spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg, breaking his back, and suffering both spinal cord and brain injuries in an off-duty accident. (Click here to see segment of Discovery Channel documentary of Trevor’s accident.)

During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations; including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center, and Lake Elsinore Station; along with other locations.

Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team, and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.

Trevor has been married for more than 30 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and his “fluid family” includes 13 children and 18 grandchildren.

One comment

  • Thank you! Not only a scary scenario, your reporting provided excellent information regarding Services available for parents, etc.