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Unconventional search for missing teens highlights need for autism awareness

The rescue and location of two missing autistic teenagers this week has inspired a groundswell of support for the autistic community.

13-year-old Darshan Sigel, who went missing in the Port Stephens area on Tuesday night, was found at his school in the Blue Mountains the following day.

On Tuesday, non-verbal and sound-sensitive 14-year-old William Callaghan was found safe and well after going missing for three days in bushland at Mount Disappointment in Victoria.

Autism Awareness Australia CEO Nicole Rogers told Deborah Knight the broad spectrum of autism means every person’s experience of it is unique, and the label alone cannot capture it.

“It’s a little bit like describing someone as being ‘Australian’: it kind of tells you nothing really about them.”

Volunteers searching for Will grilled bacon and played songs from Thomas the Tank Engine, two of his favourite scents and sounds, with the aim of coaxing him out of the bush.

When he was found, the waiting crowd avoided making loud noises and cheering until after he was taken to hospital.

Ms Rogers says those precautions helped ensure Will made it home safely.

“It was all about Will, and I think that was a really key point for the search.

“I hope this maybe changes the way we search for these kinds of kids in the years to come.”

Click PLAY below to hear the full interview

Image: Victorian Police, NSW Police