MACCLENNY, Fla. – An 8-year-old autistic boy missing for more than two days in the Baker County woods remained in critical condition Monday night after he was found about a mile from where he disappeared on Saturday.
A doctor who specializes in treating autistic children told News4Jax that it will be important for family to make 8-year-old Peyton Blodgett feel safe. He said the past few days mentally may have been very taxing on the little boy.
It might seem like an 8-year-old could possibly go find help after becoming lost in the woods, but it's different for a child with autism. Dr. David Childers of the UF College of Medicine said it's likely Peyton's mental capacity is that of a much younger child.
"If an 8-year-old child has the language of a 2- or 3-year-old, they'll understand the world like a 2- or 3-year-old," said Childers. "They'll understand danger, they'll perceive the world as a 2- or 3-year-old."
Childers said an autistic person develops in many mental respects at a slower pace. He said it's very possible Peyton just wouldn't have been able to cope with the conditions of being lost in the woods.
"Not a typical 8-year-old, but a typical 2- or 3-year-old, and a 2- or 3-year-old understands they're hungry or cold, but they don't understand how to find something to eat that's not in the refrigerator or in the kitchen cabinet," Childers said. "And then you add the autism piece to it, a child who may have a typical sense of pain, they may not suffer pain the same way, they may not perceive pain the same way, they may not perceive hunger, so they might wander around for a long time without trying to do anything at all other than be lost."
Childers said it will now be important to make Peyton feel secure and have his family around as the road to recovery continues after this miracle in Macclenny.
"There's been a lot of people, a lot of agencies, a lot of law enforcement work done on this case, and without them we wouldn't be here today," said Baker County Sheriff Joey Dobson. "We would not be standing here with the results that we have had with Peyton."
Peyton was found dehydrated with lots of scratches and cuts. He was transported to Wolfson Children's Hospital in critical condition Monday and his mother said he's having complications with his kidneys.
She asked for prayers for Peyton's recovery.