Boy with autism wanders into closed Oak Park McDonald's

- A child with autism was determined to get to McDonald's in the middle of the night and his mother had no idea he was missing until she got a call he snuck into the closed restaurant.

"I immediately with my cellphone ran to his bedroom just to look in the bed and when I saw him not in the bed, I just panicked," Monica Cronk said.

Cronk had no clue her 12-year-old son Caleb had snuck out of the house.

He rode his brother's bike nearly three miles to McDonald's on Greenfield south of Eleven Mile at 4 a.m. Wednesday.

He wanted hotcakes but the burger joint was closed although one door was left unlocked.

"And that was the emergency door so when it opened, immediately the alarm went off," Cronk said.

And then came the phone call.

"He said 'Mom I'm at McDonald's, turn the alarm off,'"

"The first thing that ran through my mind when I heard my son Caleb's voice was, is this a dream?"

Cronk rushed to the McDonald's - but Oak Park police were already there and Caleb was inside sitting at a table with a large pop in hand along with a hotcakes platter.

"Apparently Caleb went into a refrigerator and he wanted his pancakes," Cronk said.

Caleb, who has autism, has trouble communicating with strangers and that encounter with police could have made headlines for all the wrong reasons.

"The training is crucial and I am very proud of how the officers handled the situation," said Steve Cooper, Oak Park's public safety director. "They realized he had some special needs and they addressed it appropriately.

"It could've turned out a lot different but we're very happy the way it turned out."

And so is Cronk, but she's having a hard time getting that through to Caleb.

"It's unfortunate that through all of this that took place, he has no concept of what the police and I are telling him that it's not good to get out go out at night when it's dark," Cronk said. "His concern was that he wanted McDonald's pancakes.

"Caleb has to be watched 24 hours a day and if not something like this can take place. By him getting bigger, it is becoming more of a challenge."

If you or someone you know is affected by a child, teen or adult with autism, there are online resoiurces. 

Autism Speaks 

The Children Center autism services

Autism Speaks family services safety project
 

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