A Mom's Worst Fear: Autism And Eloping

Across the country, the back-to-school excitement is putting smiles on the faces of moms. Not only is it impossible for the kids to destroy the house when they aren’t in it, even moms crave a routine and some structure. Summer was fun. We had a blast. Now, off to school you go! Understandably, that’s how many of us feel. 

Despite the excitement, there is also a lot of anxiety that comes with this time of year. For me, it’s a mom’s worst fear. I’m afraid of my child(ren) eloping. I try to remind myself of how much progress my child(ren) have made, but the fear is always there.

Special needs parenting is an ongoing, often up-hill learning curve.

The craziest thing about special needs parenting is that no matter how good  you get at it, your confidence doesn’t increase accordingly. Actually, it can weaken, depending on your situation. My situation is that I have six-year-old triplets with Autism. That constant shake in your confidence can happen even when you find your ‘groove’ and learn your children and their disability.  Being educated about your child and their disability doesn’t always give you that feeling of power you might be hoping to uncover. For me, there is always an underlying and valid fear about keeping them safe. In fact, that is my biggest fear, especially when I am out with them alone, and there is only one adult to the three of them. If one runs in one direction, and another in a different direction, the moment is full of panic. This happens often.

Autism is deceiving. It deceives the public, it deceives the child, and it deceives the parents. Whether it’s power over a child is overestimated or underestimated, it deceives us all, at times. Take me for example. My children have been working on strengthening their skills and abilities their entire lives. From the time they were born at just over two pounds each, to being diagnosed with Autism, through their first three years of school, and still. I see their work, their successes, and their growth, and sometimes it deceives me. I expect, or believe for a moment that they are like any other typical six-year-olds. They’re not. Sure, they have certain skills that not only mirror your average six-year-old, but some of their skills even exceed those of an average six-year-old. On the other hand, there are things that scare the life out of me. For example, I’m always anxious when I’m cooking. It seems that no matter how many times I teach my children that the stove might be hot and they could get burned, it just doesn’t stick. My children have burned their tiny hands and still reached back out to try to stick their hand into a hot pot of food, because they’re hungry or just because they want to see what mommy is making.

So here is where special needs parenting gets tricky. It is infinitely important that as parents, we do not underestimate the potential and ability of our children. However, overestimating their ability could cost them their life. It’s that serious. It’s that scary.

I know that seeing is believing, so I want to take you on a quick journey to show you just how deceiving Autism can be. To document my message, I took Enrique outside for a little bit, and just let him be. At first, you will notice an adorable boy, who fits the boys-will-be-boys theory to a T. Also, he seems like any other six-year-old. As you go on, you’ll begin to understand my biggest fear, and struggle.

Enrique throws things. Sure, boys throw things. That’s typical. Enrique may or may not have a stopping point at any given moment. He might just throw rocks, but he also throws tables, chairs, forks, scissors, or anything within his reach, at what seems like a random moment. It’s probably not a random moment, but on the outside looking in, that’s how it looks. Something clicks in him, causes a meltdown or a breakdown, and fun turns into dangerous, fast. Special needs parenting has taught me this, over and over again. He does this less now. That doesn’t make me less scared.

Enrique jumps. That seems typical, right? It is, except that Enrique might try to jump from 2 steps up or from 10 steps up, and often is not able to distinguish the shift in danger. He has tried to jump out of windows and from the tops of large furniture items. He does this less now. That doesn’t make me less scared.

Enrique likes to climb. That was one of my favorite activities when I was a little girl. Like mother like son, right? Wrong. Enrique is not selective about what he climbs. He doesn’t consider whether or not something is stable enough to climb. He has tried to climb on glass windows and even cars. Speaking of cars, they are one of his and Andres’ favorite hiding spots.

In fact, parking lots became so dangerous over time for all of my triplets, that they were each given handicap placards. Just imagine if one of them runs off in a parking lot and decides to hide under a vehicle while I search frantically, with the clock racing against what could be their life. It’s serious. The parking lots they are most familiar with are also the most dangerous. School, the doctor’s office, and our own driveway are places they feel so comfortable, they just don’t think twice about bolting out into that dangerous space. There have been close calls. I hate parking lots.

My children talk to strangers, approach them, try to approach their vehicles, and wander off. They elope. Especially the boys. Last year, Andres was found outside of his school, by himself, by Enrique’s Aide. That day, Andres had a substitute teacher who didn’t even realize he was missing. Things had been going so well. No one expected that, but we know better than to underestimate the dangers of Autism.

So, my biggest, most horrific fear, is really any parent’s fear. I’m afraid of my child(ren)…

Disappearing from my sight. From a place. From this world. There have been too many sad stories. I can’t. For now, I am very particular about where and when I take the triplets out into the world, if I’m by myself. I am confident, yet, afraid. They are typical, yet very different.

That day that Andres was found outside his school is not just a bad memory. It’s a recurring thought, especially since my children will be back in school next week. 

If you are a mom, parent, aunt, uncle, or any responsible adult, do me a favor. If you ever see a child who does not seem to be DIRECTLY SUPERVISED, do not just assume that child is with someone. MAKE SURE that child is with someone! Make SURE. 

Parents of children who elope know all too well that it only takes a moment. You should know that, too. Let’s all have a safe school year!


For more articles on Parenting and Autism, check out the Special Needs tab on 247modernmom.com.

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