I spent this past weekend searching for a missing boy with autism. I was notified early Saturday morning that volunteers were being requested to help search for a 14-year-old child who left school property after getting off the bus on Thursday morning. Due to an alarming number of systemic and human errors (to include multiple teachers actively and incorrectly marking Trevyan Rowe “present”) his mother was not notified of his absence. When it came time for Trevyan to get off the bus, he didn’t.
By the time the police were notified, Trevyan had already been missing and alone for 10 hours. Those early, crucial hours just after a child goes missing… they were wasted. Nobody was aware, so nobody responded, so nothing was done.
Hundreds of volunteers spent the weekend attempting to support the Rochester Police Department in their search for Trevyan.
It was a beautiful outpouring of unity and support. Still, after an extensive air, land and water search, Trevyan’s body was eventually discovered in the Genesee river on Sunday afternoon.
While anyone can sympathize with the horrific nightmare that this family has endured, many of us in the David’s Refuge community can also empathize. Many of us are intimately familiar with the fear and uncertainty that comes with parenting a child with unpredictable behaviors. On Wednesday evening, just one day before Trevyan wandered off school property, my son – who suffers from impulsivity, emotional instability and volatile behaviors as a result of Reactive Attachment Disorder – ran away for the first time. I am certainly not comparing the two experiences seeing as my son basically hid in the back yard until he “felt cold and realized he had no other place to go in this weather.” After hours of long and serious discussion, I tried to lighten the mood and joked with him saying “well, I guess we look forward to seeing what milder weather brings!” I look back at that moment now and I cringe at myself for attempting to bring some levity to a situation that could have ended the same way for my family as it has for Trevyan’s.
In the aftermath of this tragic and senseless loss, I can’t help but want to do something. I know that there is often nothing to be done after the loss of a child, but in this case… so much needs to be done. According to news reports, six 911 operators have been suspended for not following proper protocol after receiving several emergency calls that a child was seen crouching on a bridge and walking down the highway. Six. Six people who had the power to do something, did nothing. The erroneous attendance report… the lack of adequate supervision for a child with special needs to make it safely into the school building… this list goes on.
There is so much to be done at the systemic level, and it is very easy to feel overwhelmed by it all and to do nothing. But all of us can do better. We can more firmly advocate for our kids to have all the supports in place for their safety. People told us we would never get an aid for our son because he does “too well in school.” We fought and fought, and he now has a 1:1 aid during the unstructured times when he most struggles with impulsivity, including arrival and dismissal times. Sometimes doing better looks like not taking “no” for an answer.
I don’t know what it looks like for you to do something. Maybe it means you will be a better 911 operator. Maybe you will be more mindful of marking your classroom’s attendance correctly. Maybe you can be a better aid or monitor. Maybe you can join the search the next time the system fails a child. Maybe you can vote for better funding of public schools, or become a trained respite provider for a parent who is too exhausted to advocate for her child. Maybe you can be a more compassionate nurse, more loyal a friend, or a better counselor. Maybe doing better means that we resist the urge to lighten the mood during a conversation that needs to feel heavy. I don’t know what it looks like for you, but I know there is something we can all do better.
And in light of this boy’s senseless passing, I think we really must.