LAPEER, Mich. — A Lapeer mother endured an agonizing 90 minutes when her 5-year-old daughter — who has autism — went missing after getting on the bus after school.
The little girl is home safe, but her mom is still very much shaken.
Charlie Fox was diagnosed with nonverbal autism a few years ago. “Usually just yes or no answers,” mother Sarah Fox said.
Fox wants nothing more than to help her little girl. Each morning she takes Charlie down to her bus stop, which is a couple of blocks away. She said it took time, but eventually, she trusted the Lapeer Community Schools bus driver and the aide to get her daughter where she needs to be safely. Fox said that didn’t happen Wednesday because her daughter never made it to therapy.
“What do you mean she’s not there? Are you sure she’s not there,” Fox said, recounting the event. Fox said she always worried this day might happen. She checked the GPS equipped belt Charlie wears, but the battery was dead. Fox says she called the bus garage to see what happened and she got an answer she didn’t expect.
“Well whoever we gave her to yesterday that’s who we gave her to. That was me, so I hung up on and then called my daughter back and made her check the house,” Fox said.
Friends, family and police were all searching for Charlie. Fox said there was a call about an hour a half later. Charlie was at the Lapeer Community bus garage on bus 79, just waiting. “She couldn’t have asked for help. She couldn’t have screamed. She just sat there and waited, wondering why she was buckled in and no one was there,” Fox said.
Lapeer schools have apologized to the family. They said the incident is still under investigation and cannot comment publicly at this time. Fox said an apology isn’t enough because this one day has set Charlie back. “She’s been hitting herself more, and she gets frustrated more. She’s been head-banging herself more, which means there are bruises on her head more,” Fox said.
Fox said she plans to take Charlie to school and therapy herself from now on.