- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 11, 2002

Prince George's County school administrators will meet today to find out why a severely autistic 7-year-old boy, who was supposed to be in a supervised summer school program, was found walking alone on the Inner Loop of the Capital Beltway near Auth Road earlier this week.
"I can't emphasize enough how serious the school system is about special education," said spokeswoman Athena Ware. "They have to find out what happened. It's sketchy for me even."
Dr. Patricia Jamison, the Prince George's county schools director of special education, and Carol Reed, a special-education supervisor, did not return phone calls from The Washington Times.
Joshua Delaney, who was found wandering along the Beltway on Monday, was taken to the Maryland State Police Barracks in Forestville, where he was retrieved by his parents.
During an interview yesterday at their home on Andrews Air Force Base, where Master Sgt. Mark Delaney is a network operations superintendent for the 89th Communications Squadron, Sgt. Delaney and his wife, Martina, said they immediately withdrew their son from the Skyline Elementary School extended school year program after picking him up.
Joshua whose developmental handicap includes delayed speech, poor communication skills and difficulty following directions and instructions began attending the extended program July 1 and had a special requirement.
"He's supposed to have one-on-one at all times as long as he's at school," Mrs. Delaney said.
School broke for recess before 11:30 a.m. on Monday. Joshua left school grounds on his own, walked down Randolph Road, turned right onto Suitland Road and then walked up the Exit 9 on ramp.
He eventually walked more than a mile from the school grounds alongside the four traffic lanes of the Inner Loop, where he followed the white-striped line of the slow lane with his head down.
Gary Mays, who was driving on the Inner Loop with his wife, Donna, pulled onto the shoulder just beyond the Suitland Road exit to help the second-grader.
"I can't stop crying for this kid," said Mr. Mays, 67, of Fort Washington. "I didn't see anything but him. All I could see was him."
He said he tried speaking with Joshua but had trouble hearing because of the roar of oncoming traffic.
"I took his hand and started talking to him," he said. "I asked him, was he lost and he said, 'Yes, I'm lost.' I could hear confusion in his voice, and I didn't know what went wrong. I asked his name and he told me 'Joshua.'"
The Maryland State Police daily log for Monday lists a call for a possibly autistic juvenile at 11:32 a.m., state police said. By 11:37 a.m., a trooper arrived and transported Joshua back to the barracks.
Mr. and Mrs. Mays continued home, then called Mrs. Delaney, who was speaking with her mother-in-law when an operator initiated an emergency interruption.
"Do you have a son named Joshua?" Mrs. Delaney said a man, later determined to be Mr. Mays, asked her.
Shortly thereafter, Sgt. and Mrs. Delaney went to the barracks to pick up Joshua.
Mrs. Mays said her husband "always helps people."
Yesterday, Joshua presented Mr. and Mrs. Mays with a handmade thank-you card and a porcelain guardian angel statuette.
"He saved his life. We cannot thank him enough," Mrs. Delaney said before Mr. and Mrs. Mays arrived at her home. "He could have been killed. He could have been kidnapped by strangers."
Skyline Elementary School officials began looking for Joshua when he was reported missing at about 11:30 a.m., his parents said.
Mark Dennison, principal of the school, said the program Joshua was enrolled in is separate from the school and that there's another principal for that program. But he wouldn't provide that administrator's name.
"They're just using the facility," Mr. Dennison said.
James Williams, the schools liaison at Andrews Air Force Base, said he has spoken with school officials in an effort to ensure such an incident doesn't recur and to resume Joshua's education.
"I really don't like the child not being in school," Mr. Williams said.
"When a child is out of school, I feel that they fall behind, and especially when the child has special requirements, they need to be in school."

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