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Missing Children on the Autism Spectrum

NCJ Number
Date Published

This is an analysis of data on cases in which children on the autism spectrum were reported as missing to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC).


Because these children are described by callers in a variety of ways, search methodology for this report involved identifying children with autism or Asperger’s listed as a diagnosed medical condition, a mental health condition, or a special needs condition. This analysis overlaps data on such cases for 2011 through 2016. During this period, 1,516 children on the autism spectrum were reported to the NCMEC as missing. These children were involved in 1,986 reported missing incidents. The most common age was 14 for non-family abductions; 18 for missing young adults; 14 and 15 for lost, injured, or otherwise missing; 3 for family abductions; and 16 for endangered runaways. The data presented cover demographics of the missing children; circumstances of the missing cases; and features of recovered children, children missing from care, and deceased children. Regarding the types of missing cases of persons with autism, 67 percent involved endangered runaways; 17 percent were lost, injured, or otherwise missing; 10 percent were family abductions; and 5 percent were missing young adults. Data on the most common characteristics of missing children on the autism spectrum address percentages by sex, age, race, case type, case status, missing month, missing location, recovery location, recovery method, and recovery in the same state from where they were missing. The average age of the missing persons is reported by race/ethnicity. There were no major race or ethnicity differences based on sex. Almost half of missing children on the autism spectrum were white males, followed by 15 percent who Were white females and 15 percent who were Black males. Extensive tables and figures 

Date Published: January 1, 2021