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Worried About Their Autistic Sons, Moms Work to Strengthen Ties With Police

By Heather Cherone | December 7, 2015 6:44am
 Barbara Murphy (l.) said she and her husband, Kevin, worry about their son John, who has autism and doesn't speak, disappearing.
Barbara Murphy (l.) said she and her husband, Kevin, worry about their son John, who has autism and doesn't speak, disappearing.
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Barbara Murphy

PORTAGE PARK — Two Portage Park mothers whose sons have autism are working to make sure their boys — and other Far Northwest Side children with special needs — know how to ask for help from police and firefighters.

Victoria Benson and Barbara Murphy are organizing a tour of the Jefferson Park Police District Headquarters as the first step in an effort to create a citywide organization called C.J. Protects that can help keep an eye out for children with special needs who get lost, the pair said.

"You might think a kid would never leave, but you don't know," Benson said. "I never would have thought my son would have left."

Benson said C.J., who is considered to be high-functioning, disappeared — without his shoes — on Labor Day while struggling with anxiety. He was gone for about 1½ hours before his father found him, playing in a park several blocks away. He was unharmed, Benson said.

"It was very scary," Benson said. "I want to make something positive from something so awful."

Murphy, who owns Josi's Frozen Yogurt at Six Corners, said she worries about what would happen if her son, John, disappeared. He has autism, and cannot speak.

"We want to see if we can get bracelets or trackers for kids with autism," Murphy said. "So if they do get lost we can find them quicker."

The pair of friends — who helped found Portage Park Helping Hands to benefit Portage Park Elementary School — said they are organizing the tour of the police district headquarters as an attempt to familiarize their sons with the station — and officers.

"I want the cops to know our kids," Benson said. "And our kids to know the cops."

After C.J. returned home, Benson said she realized that he might not have known to go to the police or fire stations for help — and that the officers might not have known what to do to help him.

"What would they do if he had a meltdown?" Benson said. "We just want the lines of communication to be open."

Those interested in joining the organization or going on the tour, Murphy can be reached at barbiemurphy@sbcglobal.net.

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