• Because I can’t think of an appropriate image for this story, enjoy this still of Cyd Charisse in It’s Always Fair Weather.

For most of the last year I spent working at a day center for developmentally disabled adults on the northwest side, I provided one-on-one supervision for a man who was both severely retarded and autistic. Daryl (as I’ll call him here) required direct supervision because, as I learned when I first joined the staff, he was a “runner.” Whenever he was overwhelmed by the goings-on of the center—which was often—Daryl would run out of whatever room he was in. Usually, he would find an empty classroom, turn off the lights, and stick his fingers in his ears to block out as much sound as he could. But sometimes he would try to escape the center entirely. For this reason, the front door had been locked from the outside for decades (Daryl had been a client of the center for about 30 years when I met him), and his mother almost always kept him home when the center took the clients on a field trip. He could run pretty fast when he wanted to, and the center could have landed in all sorts of trouble if he were to vanish.