Have you ever read something that made you really question yourself?
This week I saw a Facebook post from my cousin about her autistic son, and his penchant for running. While reading her story, I wondered to myself, what would I do if I saw a child running away in a store? Would I help? Or would I assume the parent had things under control?
Autism and wandering are not my first thoughts when I see what appears to be a misbehaving child in a store. However after reading my cousin’s story, I’ll definitely look at things with new eyes. And I hope you will too.
I asked my cousin permission to share, because I thought that there are probably others like me, who don’t know much about autism and wandering. But knowing could save lives. Or at least help another parent in the middle of a scary situation.
Autism and Wandering — What One Mom Wants You to Know
“There are many things that come with an autism diagnosis. I feel like we have been pretty fortunate with the things my son doesn’t do that seem to be typical for children on the spectrum.
One thing he does do is escape or run. When I talk to his therapists or teachers and I say “he’s a runner” they know exactly what I’m talking about.
It’s a big safety concern, especially places that have automatic doors. My son would easily run out of them and into a parking lot without even thinking about it.
Another fear of mine is water and drowning.
My son typically likes to run in big areas. Schools, grocery stores and malls. Today he was at the mall with my sisters and my mom. Usually I send him with his safety strap (or leash whatever you want to call it) but I forgot it this time.
My sister let go of his hand for just and a second and he immediately took off. She took off after him.
My son is so fast you can lose site of him so quickly. My sister said while she was chasing after my son she was shocked that nobody was helping stop him. They just laughed and thought it was an ornery boy running from his mom.
My sister is 7 months pregnant and no one helped her!
She ended up losing my son in the mall. I think she was afraid to tell me how long it was until they ended up finding him.
I forget how little people know about autism because I feel like my whole world is wrapped up in it. There have also been times where I literally had to leave my younger son in his stroller to chase my oldest son before he ran out an automatic door.
No one has ever helped.
They just stare and it blows my mind.
I just felt like I needed to say something — in case you’re ever in the situation where you could help. Maybe next time don’t assume it’s just a bad child, maybe it’s something different.”
When you see a child running away from their parent
Don’t assume that everything is ok or the parent has it under control. And for goodness sake, don’t laugh!
While every running child might not be autistic, their parent might still appreciate an offer to help. We’ve all had moments where our children ran, hid, or acted up in public. Those moments are tough enough without stares and laughter.
You don’t have to be a hero, but you can be a helper.
Learn more about autism and wandering at AutismSpeaks.org.
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