As I mentioned, I have had numerous “runners” that I have worked with over the years. There is one particular instance that sticks out in my head. I was working on a behavioral program with the parents of an 8 year old boy with ASD. Basically, they were unable to take their child anywhere without a tantrum followed by him running off. My job was to help the parents create a way of communicating with him to diminish these circumstances (he was non-verbal), and to expose him to common situations that would cause him to run off and show the parents how to work through such breakdowns.
On this particular day, we were on our own. Mom needed a break so we went for a walk. We didn’t even make it to the end of the driveway and he was gone. The good news is that he did not go very far at all. The bad news is that he tried to run into the neighbors house. As he was screaming, crying and punching the porch, the neighbor came to the front door. I had just reached him. She took one look at him, one look at me and just started screaming to get him off her property! This was not in the cards for us as 1) he was way too upset to re-direct him just yet and 2) he was twice the size of me so there was no hope for me moving him. And then she lost it and told me I had 30 seconds to figure something out or she was calling the cops. If looks could kill, that would have been it for her right then. I told her to go get her phone for me and I’d call the cops for her. She slammed the door in my face and I didn’t hear from her again. As soon as she closed the door, the boy stopped resisting me and instead grabbed onto me for dear life in an almost desperate hug. We sat there for a few more silent minutes before he was finally ready to walk back home.
I am not Thankful for stories such as this one, but it is situations like these, which unfortunately are somewhat of a common occurence for many parents with Autism, that make me more and more motivated to increase awareness. It also makes me stop and think twice before I judge the mom who’s child is screaming in the grocery store, on the plane or at any public venue. Regardless of whether the child is “typical” or autistic, I don’t think any parent enjoys these situations so instead of showing a look of annoyance (or even worse, yelling something at the parent/caregiver), show a look of compassion and move on.