4-year-old with autism went past 3 workers at care center before wandering onto busy Houston road

Daniela Hurtado Image
Wednesday, July 26, 2023
Mom questions how child with autism at care center ended on busy road
Houston police are trying to figure out how a 4-year-old girl with autism was found on a busy road in the middle of the day.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A police investigation is open after a 4-year-old girl walked toward a highway entrance in the middle of the day.

Her mother, Gabriele Washington, talked ONLY ON 13 after she said her nonverbal daughter with autism was supposed to be under the care of a local autism center.

Washington confirms her daughter is OK after that scary situation. The 4-year-old was found walking on the busy N. Post Oak Road toward Old Katy Road into traffic. Washington says a good Samaritan thankfully stopped and helped the young girl.

"It may have ended another way, and my child today was blessed. God was protecting her the whole way," Washington said. "About a block and a half away on the side of the road coming into traffic. She was running toward her (the good Samaritan's) car."

Washington says her daughter was supposed to be under the care of adults at Apara Autism Center on N. Post Oak. She told ABC13 she watched a surveillance video that showed her daughter leaving the center.

"She ran by three therapists inside, and then when she got to the receptionist's desk, no one was at the receptionist desk. She went through two doors. And out the door within a minute," Washington said.

Washington says no one from the center called to tell her, and by the time they called her back, she was pulling into the facility's parking lot to see what was going on.

She says she was notified of what happened by a third-party therapist who meets with her daughter on Tuesdays at the center. The therapist notified Washington the session with her daughter had been canceled and that a stranger had found her daughter on the busy road.

The woman who stopped her car and spotted the child told ABC13 off-camera she was coming home from work and saw the girl in the roadway. She immediately called 911.

"So thankful she stayed with my child, stayed until the police were there. She was truly an angel sent from heaven," Washington said.

Old Katy Road is a few steps away from where the child was found. Washington said that, eventually, two workers went to look for her child and found her with the good Samaritan.

When she got to the center, Washington found police taking statements. She says at that point, workers told her what happened and were apologetic.

Apara Autism Center released a statement to ABC13 on Tuesday evening on the matter:

"It is our life's work and mission to provide a safe, educational, and therapeutic environment for meaningful developmental achievements in the lives of children with autism. In the pursuit of that mission, safety is paramount, and we are grateful for those who cared and went above and beyond to lend support (Tuesday). We are thankful the child was returned quickly and safely to our Memorial Clinic. This is unprecedented for Apara, and we will conduct a full investigation into the circumstances of this incident."

Apara Autism Center

"I just hope that person who allowed that to happen, takes full responsibility and they don't work with children anymore," Washington said.

Houston police confirm they're looking into this and are waiting for the center to turn over the surveillance video to send to the Harris County District Attorney's Office for review.

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