Missing Long Island teen with autism found ahead of nor'easter

HEMPSTEAD, Long Island (WABC) -- A desperate search for a missing Long Island teenager with autism had a happy ending Tuesday, as 18-year-old Joseph "Michael" Barbella was found safe amid heightened fears ahead of a spring nor'easter.

This was the third time in the past 14 months that Barbella has gone missing from his Commonwealth Street home in Franklin Square home. He had last been seen around 11 p.m. Monday, and his father reported him missing at 3 a.m.

The man who found him, Michael, said he was "glad we found him before the snowstorm." Barbella was found in the bushes and was reported to be shaken, but OK.

Residents were asked to check their sheds, garages, yards and under cars for Joseph, who answers to the name of Michael.

He most recently disappeared in February, when he was found sleeping in Nick Giarusso's backyard in Malverne.

Barbella was apparently in the bushes and had taken off much of his clothes. Giarusso spotted the clothing hanging up and called police.

At the time, his mother said she was thankful for all the responders and good Samaritans who aided in the search for her son, who notably also disappeared last year and was found in a neighbor's shed. But she also wanted to raise awareness regarding the struggles many families face when dealing with autism.

"Children with autism have a wandering instinct, and I think people don't understand what it involves," Joanne Barbella said. "And it's really sad, because people are judging us. And I think that's really unfair. I think that the community has shown a lot of love and support, and we really appreciate it very much."

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