ATLANTA — A mom is now charged with child cruelty after leaving her 14-year-old son with special needs at Grady Memorial Hospital.
At first, police and the hospital had no idea who the child was when they discovered him wandering alone outside. But a teacher who saw 11Alive's story recognized the boy and reached out to police.
The mom told officers she was overwhelmed caring for the teen and three other kids. The story is now sparking a conversation about resources for families like this - and the struggles they face.
In the picture police originally sent to 11Alive us, the boy and his mother, Diana Elliot, are holding hands as she leads him into the hospital.
He's dressed warmly and has a backpack. However, police said Elliot left him at Grady without telling anyone there. Now, she's in jail and he's in foster care. Advocates from the Down syndrome community said they understand her desperation.
Two families 11Alive spoke with know those struggles all too well.
At 4-and-a-half, Asher is finally learning to communicate with his mom in his own way. He points at pictures to tell her what he needs.
"All I want to do is talk to Asher and for him to say, 'I want to eat this for breakfast,' 'I want to go play with this,' or 'I love you, mom'," Meagan Nash said.
Just a week earlier, she posted on social media about how hard it is to have a child who can't talk to her and tell her how he feels. So, when she saw the story about the teen left at Grady, it hit home.
"This young man is probably sitting there terrified," she said. "Because he can't talk and he can't communicate."
All of her friends who have kids with Down Syndrome immediately started talking - not about how what Elliot allegedly did was wrong, but about how they could help her.
"From one mom to another, I am grieving for her," Meaghan said. "But, I want her to know the Down Syndrome community - we are not judging. We are standing behind her ready to help."
Thousands of people reached out to see how they could help the family. Hannah Mathis is a foster mom for special needs kids and thinks Elliot dropped her son off at the hospital because she loves him.
"Somewhere he could get food and care and warmth," she said. "The other options are just so sad and drastic. So, that's the light of this - she must love him. She must care about him because she dropped him where he can get help."
She contacted the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services to see if she could foster the boy until his mom gets back on her feet.
"You're not alone," Mathis said. "And he's not alone."
The teen is in the state's custody for now. But Hannah and Meagan think he should be back with his mom.
"It's breaking my heart that this poor little boy was probably so terrified and so confused," Meaghan said. "Where did his mom go?"
Her court hearing is at 11 a.m. on Thursday at the Fulton County Jail.