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Counselor: Aspergers explains hiding girl in Manitou Springs

Understanding Aspergers Helps Explain Missing Girl Saga

MANITOU SPRINGS, Colo. - A counselor specializing in Asperger syndrome hopes the community knows what a challenge last week's search and rescue in Manitou Springs was for the girl and her family.

Manitou Springs police, fire and search and rescue crews from El Paso County searched for a 12-year old identified as Emily for several hours. Emily wandered away from her family while they were hiking between 4 and 4:30 p.m. She was found around 9 p.m. hiding in a drainage pipe at Soda Springs Park. Emily was uninjured and allowed to go home with her mother Friday night.

Penny Frank saw the drama unfold with a unique perspective. While search and rescuers described Emily as a someone who "liked to hide," the counselor knows it's more complicated than that.

"Kids that have Aspergers or autism don't often understand how one problem leads to another, problems lead to another problems or a solution and get stuck in one place," said Frank, a counselor with Aspen Pointe.  "They feel guilt, shame and blame and want to hide."

Frank said Aspergers patients don't have normalized reactions to typical situations and don't understand how bad decisions can multiply.

"It could have been a game or it could have been 'I don't want to get in trouble,'" said Frank.

Kids growing up with Aspergers are often seen as having behavioral issues but Frank said that label doesn't give those children or their families a fair chance.

"It's difficult for families that have kids with special needs," said Frank. "They need support from us in the community."

Frank suggests being patient with kids and families. She urges the community not judge based on normal situations because living with the condition can be exhaustive for loved ones. She recommended the Special Kids Special Families website to learn more about the kind of support available to families of children with Aspergers.

"Aspergers doesn't go away," said Frank. "Kids can grow up through it and gain their own talents and gifts and strengths but they'll always have that characteristic of being a little bit special."

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