SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - 14-year old Joseph LaCour was missing for almost 18 hours. Diagnosed with autism, LaCour wandered off in an effort to keep up with his routine of going to church and see his "paw-paw."
Since returning home, Joseph has received an outpouring of love from his family who are happy he's home safely.
Deysha LaCour, Joseph's mother, says words don't do it justice for how happy she is to have her baby boy home.
"It's indescribable. We were just staring at him. We were so glad to have him home," said Deysha LaCour.
The 14-year old, who is limited in his verbal communication, was back to his normal routine a day after creating an emotional roller coaster for his family and friends.
Well, almost his normal routine.
"Joseph stayed home from school today to rest," said Deysha LaCour. "We noticed at the hospital that he has some blisters on his feet from all the walking he did, so we thought it would be best to give him a day at home."
LaCour walked more than 15 miles from his home in Bossier City to Shreveport.
His mother, who works at a local library, has used reading to her son to try and emphasize the severity of his wandering off.
"In reading to him we just try to explain scenarios to him about good and bad strangers, to always be with mommy and daddy, and don't open the door you know, just stay with us at all times," said Deysha LaCour.
In this instance, he did not stay with his family, something that is uncharacteristic for Joseph but not for young children with Autism.
According to the National Autism Association, an average of 1 in every 88 children in the U.S. is diagnosed with Autism.
Dr. Michelle Yetman, a clinical psychologist for the Children's Center of LSU Health Shreveport says the statistic for young children with autism to wander off is even more significant.
"The Journal of Pediatrics recently published an article that says nearly 50 percent of children between the ages of 4 and 17 wander off," Yetman said.
The term is also known as "eloping." Of the 1,367 families who took part in the study, 49 percent reported their child had attempted to elope, or wander off, at least once after the age of four.
"It's a very scary situation," said Dr. Yetman. "There are medical alert bracelets the child can wear that will actually carry the child's identification, the diagnosis of autism and a contact number. If the child is young, you can get bracelets that can't be removed or even shoelaces that contain tracking chips if the child is sensitive to the touch of a bracelet."
While Deysha LaCour and her family feel blessed to have Joseph home safe, she's using this situation as an opportunity to learn even more about autism.
"I'm definitely wanting to learn even more. We're always learning with autism, so I definitely want to learn more myself as well as educate others," said Deysha LaCour.