STEUBENVILLE - A search Tuesday afternoon for a 12-year-old autistic student who walked away from the Jefferson Regional Spectrum Center ended after the boy was seen in Cadiz by a bus aide.
The boy went to use the restroom at the Jefferson County Developmental Disabilities school for students with autism around 12:30 p.m. but walked out of the building, said Michael Mehalik, developmental disabilities superintendent. The boy walked to the Pugliese West Elementary School on John Scott Highway, Mehalik said. The boy tried to get into the school to get water and talked to a staff member, he said.
The boy later said he was picked up by a woman with two children in the car near the Pugliese school and was driven to the McDonald's in Cadiz, where the woman gave the boy, a Cadiz resident, $5.
Mehalik said the Harrison Hills City School District was notified that the boy had gone missing. He was a student there before attending the school for autistic students in Steubenville. A bus aide saw the boy walking, got him on the bus and drove him to a Cadiz school, where Jefferson County developmental disabilities was notified.
City Police initially got the 911 call from the Jefferson Regional Spectrum Center about the missing student. The Ohio State Highway Patrol sent troopers and called in an airplane. The sheriff's department also was notified.
Mehalik said procedures were followed in the search for the boy. Staff first searched the building and then moved outside. Mehalik said he drove around the area because they didn't want the boy to be walking along John Scott Highway. Mehalik said they've never had a student walk away from a school at the facility.
Mehalik said the boy is highly functioning and communicates well.
He said the school staff will now review policies to determine if any changes are needed in light of the incident.
"It had a happy ending," he said.