And that title is no joke. It is sad commentary on one of the least reported issues with autism. The community’s dirty little secret…that no parent of an autistic child wants to talk about…RUNNING. Not marathons…but what is mistakenly called eloping. Those moments we all dread when our child does a ‘runner.’ When something happens and they just take off. When we are running after them screaming and the whole friggin’ world is looking at us like we are the worst parents in the whole universe…why is a child that old running from its parents…and all those other things.
That happened to us today. After one of the best days ever yesterday, playing with her carer, then going to the park and playing with children there…without a single incident of bullying. Then we managed to go to the pet shop on the way home and get a new hamster (old one died without a meltdown too…meltdown from her). Great day…
And I know…a bad day almost always follows. But she was good this morning and had her other carer in the afternoon. But the moment she left…all hell broke loose. I was just lucky that I was fully dressed this time because she was out the door that quick. I did not even have time to grab my phone…just my keys. We ran around the flats out back for a good twenty minutes before she calmed down. We went to the store…then she fell asleep in her buggy on the way home. But the moment she woke up…she was right back at it. This time I managed to block her exit but it took twice as long for her to calm down. Now she has had a bath, is eating pizza, watching Disney channel and playing on the iPad (she told me the other day to leave the TV on…she was multi-tasking?!?) And adrenaline is still coursing through me…I am on full alert.
Runners are one of the scariest parts of our jobs because:
1) They terrify us…unless you live in a Little House on the Prairie…then there are streets and cars and bad people out there. Heck, I guess there would be wolves and bears on the prairie too…no way to win.
2) It is one of those times when people are most judgmental…you are the world’s worst parent. No questions asked. And honestly, when you cannot keep them safe…you feel that they are right.
3) It triggers all our worst fears…police, social workers…let’s don’t even go there.
The thing is that the ‘experts’ don’t do us any favors when they minimize the dangers of this behaviors and its huge impacts on the mental health of families. It is serious business and putting locks on doors and med-alert bracelets do nothing to assuage our fears.
This behavior isolates us…makes us ashamed…terrifies us…it is the dirtiest little secret out there. And I just came out of the closet…
My nine year-old high-functioning, normal looking daughter ELOPED today…and it is no funnier than those adverts we all see on television about girls her age being forced into marriage…elopement, either kind, needs our full attention. We need understanding and support NOT your judgment.