A 10-year-old Independence girl being treated at Children’s Mercy Hospital for possible frostbite was listed in fair condition Monday afternoon, according to hospital officials.
Authorities said the girl, who has autism, was found outdoors by her sister shortly before 6 a.m. in the 3600 block of South Brentwood Avenue amid single-digit temperatures. Police did not know how long she had been outside.
Police said they found nothing about the incident to be suspicious.
Almost half, or 49 percent, of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders have been reported to have wandered off at least once after age 4, according to a 2012 study by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
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Such “elopement behavior” increased the risk of injury or death among such children, the study found. About half of the children went missing long enough to cause concern.
The results highlighted the continuing need to train child care professionals, teachers and first responders regarding such tendencies, the study said.
“It’s a rare occurrence yet terrifying,” said Scott Born, director of curriculum and training at the Kansas City Autism Training Center in Prairie Village.
The most recent estimate from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that one in 68 children could have an autism spectrum disorder, Born said. If so, that would mean about 7,000 to 9,000 children across the Kansas City area could be affected.
Even within that population, the children would display a wide range of skill deficits, so it is difficult to generalize about them, he said.