Missing teen with autism on Long Island found safe

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Stacey Sager reports on how a search for a missing teen with autism on Long Island ended happily.

The search for a missing teenager with autism on Long Island has had a happy ending.

Authorities say 17-year-old Joseph "Michael" Barbella, who lives in Franklin Square, was found safe early Tuesday morning after missing for several hours.

His family said he became frightened while on a bowling trip to Malverne and ran off.

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

He was found early Tuesday morning, 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.

"He had taken off his clothes and tossed them over the fence," he said. "(He was) in the corner over there between the two fences...right in my backyard."

MTA canine officer Doug Joseph spotted him first.

"He was down to a tank top, so he was really, really cold," Joseph said. "Because I was bundled up, and I was really, really cold."

Barbella was taken to Nassau University Medical Center for evaluation. His mother said she is 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 wants to raise awareness as to 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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Related Topics:
missing boyautismHempsteadNassau CountyNew York
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