Last summer, 11-year-old Jacalvionne Boyd, who has autism, walked away from his home on Avenue E in Rochester over 20 times.
Once, he was found 10 miles away in Gates. His mother called police to track him down.
"His mom had newly moved here to Rochester and didn't have any supports or services in place," said Lawana Jones, founder and executive director of the Autism Council.
Police called Jones to help Jacalvionne and his family, who had just relocated to Rochester from Florida. After completing an assessment, Jones gave Jacalvionne a pair of noise-canceling headphones.
"The neighborhood was very noisy," she explained, "so we gave him a pair of the ear defenders, and his mom said he was actually able to sleep through the night for the first time since they had moved here."
When another boy whose family said he was on the spectrum disappeared unnoticed from School 12 in March 2018, the search ended in tragedy. Fourteen-year-old Trevyan Rowe's body was found in the Genesee River.
Rowe's and Boyd's stories are what prompted the Autism Council to put an autism mobile crisis van into service. The council says it will be the first mobile unit of its kind in New York state.
"A location is great," Jones said, "but the families that we have been interacting with and serving in this underserved population of people, you need something that can go to them."
When it becomes available in January, the van, driven by volunteers, will be loaded with sensory-calming bags containing noise-canceling headphones, ear plugs that muffle noise but still allow the user to hear conversations, GPS tracking devices, and a tip card to help first responders communicate with individuals who have autism.
Jones said the van will be in service 24 hours a day for what she calls an underserved population of people on the spectrum who don't have access to transportation or are newly diagnosed and aren't connected with support services yet.
Once it's up and running, the mobile unit can be requested by police or community members for children up to 18 years old who are on the spectrum and live within the Rochester area. Requests can be made at (585) 413-1681 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Jones said the voice mail and email will be monitored 24 hours a day and most requests will be answered in one to two hours.
The van was funded through a $10,000 grant from a Rochester organization that the Autism Council will announce when the van is unveiled in January.
This story is reported from WXXI's Inclusion Desk.