Investigators believe a three-year-old toddler’s autism is what enabled him to survive three days in the Australian bush.
Anthony ‘AJ’ Elfalak was found on Monday wearing only a t-shirt and a nappy after getting lost in the wild terrain just behind his home, in a rural village 90 miles north of Sydney.
A search helicopter spotted AJ next to a creek, using cupped hands to drink water from it.
An investigator told Daily Mail Australia he believes AJ’s autism helped him to not panic because he simply did not understand that he was in peril.
The investigator said, “The reality is [AJ] didn’t know he was lost… so he wasn’t scared, he didn’t panic.
“If he was tired, he slept… he had access to water, which is a big thing for survival in the bush.”
Children with autism often have an ‘impaired sense of danger’, especially when they are actively doing something they love like exploring, according to Autism Tasmania.
Social media has been inundated with conspiracy theories, accusing the family of staging AJ’s disappearance.
Many believe that it is utterly impossible for a three-year-old to survive without food in the scorching daytime heat and near freezing overnights in the Outback.
Both police and paramedics have said that AJ’s condition and injuries do match what they’d expect to find on a little boy lost for three nights in the bush.
A paramedic told how ‘starving’ AJ ‘guzzled’ water and ate an entire pizza after his rescue.
AJ’s family threw a party for their whole community to celebrate his safe return and to thank everyone for helping in the search.
AJ’s father, Anthony Elfalak, told local media that anyone from locked down Sydney was invited to the ‘big party’.
However, everyone involved in the search and the celebrations are now being advised to get a COVID-19 test, after one volunteer tested positive for the virus.
The helicopter pilot who first saw the toddler, Jonathan Smith, said, “We’ve been involved in many jobs that don’t turn out like this and it’s been the other end of the spectrum and it’s just really nice to have a positive outcome like this for once.
“We were all emotional and I said to the boys, ‘If that doesn’t make you happy, nothing will’.”