Autistic Kids Who Run Away Often Beat the Odds

Rescuers baffled by autistic runaways who survive for days in wilderness

May 2, 2013, 10:50 AM

May 2, 2013 — -- quicklist:1title: Robert Wood, Jr., 8 text: In 2011, the largest manhunt in Virginia history took place more than six days as volunteers and rescuers scoured a dense forest looking for Robert Wood Jr., an 8-year-old with severe autism.

Robert, whose family called him Bud, ran off while visiting a state Civil War park with his father. He is non verbal.

Robert was found alive by a volunteer, who has remained anonymous even to the boy's family, in a quarry about a mile from where he went missing. When he was found, he was in a fetal ball and burrowed in the dirt.

The search for Robert has become an important model for rescuers who conduct searches for children with autism.

Nearly half of all children with autism run away, or "elope" before they turn 17. Many of those children die, but a handful survive against all odds.

"It's a mystery," said Robert G. Lowery Jr. of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. "Time and again, we see cases where autistic children live longer and survive in harsher settings than unaffected children. We don't really know why. It might be that these children with autism have a diminished sense of fear, but it's astonishing."

media: 14837878

quicklist: 2title: Joshua Robb, 8text: Joshua Robb, 8, was found in the woods near his California elementary school after three nights of heavy rain and lightening storms.

Rescuers coaxed Joshua from a hiding place by playing recordings of his father's voice as well as his favorite heavy metal music, including Ozzy Osbourne songs.

Joshua, who is severely autistic and non-verbal, is believed to have slipped through the iron bars of a playground gate. media: 14509225

quicklist:3 title: Nadia Bloom, 11text: In 2010, 11-year-old Nadia Bloom was found by a volunteer after spending four days in an alligator-infested swamp in Florida. She was dehydrated and covered in insect bites.

Bloom was found by James King, a member of her church who was searching for the girl who disappeared in the swamplands around Winter Springs, Fla. media:10365555

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