Missing North Carolina boy hits home for Minnesota mother of children with autism

The search continues in North Carolina for a young boy with autism who's been missing for several days.

Six-year-old Maddox Ritch was last seen Saturday afternoon while walking with his father in a park. The boy ran off and his father lost sight of him.

Since Maddox has autism and does not speak, police are worried he won't reach out for help on his own, which is a problem some Minnesota families know well.

The search in North Carolina grabbed national headlines and has hit home for a Twin Cities mother and father of three children with autism.

One family opened their home to Fox 9 Wednesday in an effort to help all parents better understand the challenges in keeping children with autism safe every second of every day.

“He will take off running at the first sign of whatever and it’s hard to catch him ‘cause he’s young and fast and I’m old and slow,” said Sheletta Brundidge.

To say Brundidge is a watchful mother is an understatement. 4-year old Daniel is one of three of her children with autism. For Brundidge and her husband Shawn, their days and nights are spent, in many ways, standing guard over their world.

Brundidge understands all too well what the parents of little 6-year old Maddox Ritch are going through.

Brundidge says keeping children with autism safe from wandering is no easy task and parents like her go to great lengths just to walk outside or do something as simple as get in a car without their children bolting into the street. Daniel is that kind of kid. He’s nearly been hit by cars and run dangerously close to lakes.

This little boy can break free at any moment, which means they don’t do barbecues or accept invites to parties. It’s just too risky with Daniel.

“He’ll run off and it’s hard to find him,” Brundidge said. “We’ve caught him at the end of the driveway a couple times. We went on vacation to Houston and my parents were watching him for a little bit and he accidentally left the door open and we went to look for him and he was down the street and it could have ended badly.”

The unfolding tragedy in North Carolina inspired the Brundidges to speak out, hoping parents of all children will better understand and maybe even be more watchful of any child who may seem out of place and do something before it’s too late.

The Brundidges are just one example of what a lot of Minnesota families face each and every day.

If someone in your family has autism and you need help Fraser is an organization that may be useful for you. You can reach them at 612-767-7222.

The Lovaas Institute Midwest also has resources for children with autism. They can be reached at (612)925-8365.