There are lots of specific words we use in the Autism world. They include things like stimming, echolalia, and scripting. I love that we have our own culture. However, there is one word used by schools I dislike intensely, Eloping.

The first time I heard a teacher tell me that my son eloped from the classroom, I laughed out loud. I kept picturing my six year old taking a ladder to a second story window and escaping intentionally with his forbidden one true love. Of course this isn’t what they meant.

I decided this wasn’t a term I wanted used and purged it from our IEP and BIP. It has always bothered me and I’m starting to understand why it bothers me. It initially bothered because its just not everyday language. No one says my kid eloped from home. We say my kid ran away from home. Eloping also seemed to me as intentional or even premediated which isn’t what was happening in the classroom.

However, there is something deeper for me. I tried to hold a breakout session this weekend at a summit for family engagement on the basics of Disability Rights. The theme was simply that Disability is a normal part of the human experience. Normalizing the disability experience just makes sense to me. While my Autism diagnosis is new and I’m still processing, my strabismus is something I’ve had my whole life. I see the world differently to the greater world. To me its just how I see. My body is normal to me. My mind and how I think is normal to me, I just have a name for it now.

So, I don’t like that we have some special word for something that isn’t special. It feels othering. We know that flight or fight is a very real response to danger whether it is real or perceived. My kid didn’t just run for no reason, he ran because he felt in danger. That to me changes the conversation. It leads to me ask why did he run. It changes the focus on not just my son’s behavior, but on the environment that lead up to the action.

I’ve changed the way I parent. I’ve changed the way I talk about myself and disability in general. I’m still trying to figure out how to be part of the change. Sometimes its as small as changing our words and language.

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