A 13-year-old boy with Asperger's Syndrome—a form of autism that often causes difficulty with social interaction—spent 11 days in the subway system last month. In a heartbreaking Times article, Francisco Hernandez Jr. tells how he took refuge in the subway for over a week because he got in trouble in class and "didn't want anyone to scream at me" at home. He says nobody spoke to him the entire time he rode the trains, and when the reporter asked him if he "saw any larger meaning in that," Hernandez replied, "Nobody really cares about the world and about people."
Hernandez subsisted on snacks bought on subway platforms and spent a lot of time sleeping, using his backpack as a pillow as he rode the trains from one end of the line to the next. "At some point I just stopped feeling anything," he tells the Times. His mother, a Mexican immigrant named Marisela García, says the police didn't make the case a priority, "Maybe because you might not understand how to manage the situation, because you don’t speak English very well, because of your legal status, they don’t pay you a lot of attention."
But the NYPD insists everything was done to find the boy, and he was eventually discovered by a transit officer who recognized him. He returned to school a week later, and though doctors recommend that Francisco be transferred to a small school for children with learning disorders, his mother says school officials told her "he was testing fine and did not need to be transferred." She says, "I don’t know, as a mother, how to get to his heart, to find out what hurts." A stack of signs she made to spread the word about his disappearance remain stacked in the corner because she's afraid she'll need them again.