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Waiting to exhale

This has been a difficult week but it ended well.

On Sunday, I heard the news that a child was missing in the woods north of our house.  Not much later, I learned that the child in question was Robert Wood, Jr. For those of you living outside the Richmond area, Robert is an 8-year old with autism. He is nonverbal and his skills are somewhat limited.  He wandered away from his father and brother during an outing at a local park on Sunday and they have been searching for him all week.

I was nervous as a parent who could only imagine how challenging it would be to know your child was missing.  I was riddled with anxiety as someone who works regularly with children with autism.  I know that these kids can sometimes bolt and run, even when you are providing conscientious care.  Any time a child goes missing it is stressful but when that child cannot communicate effectively, the risk is that much greater.  I was also sad and scared because I know Robert. I know his personality. I know his skills and strengths. I know that he relies on adults for many life activities and could easily get disoriented.

I didn't sleep well all week. My mind was elsewhere and I cried a lot. I felt like I needed to do something but I also was an emotional mess.  I thought about going to help with the volunteer effort but I decided that I would be too emotional to contribute functionally.

I rejoiced today when I heard the news that he had been found alive and transported to the local hospital.  

Thank you:

  • To all the volunteers and professionals who searched without ceasing for Robert
  • To Captain Trice from the Hanover Sheriff's department for staying positive and to the point in all communications with the media and the community. Your calm presence was a beacon in the media storm.
  • To my friends and family who were very understanding with my mixed emotions this week. I was a mess.

I will probably write a follow up post soon on some of the important resources in our community that can help families with children with autism so that incidents like this are rare.  For now, I'm going into the weekend able to exhale. I am grateful for good news. 

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