Fight, flight, or freeze. Many autistics are familiar with these physiological responses to overload. Fight can look like a meltdown. Freeze might be a shutfown or mutism. But what about flight? This experience is sometimes referred to as elopement, or the propensity for a disabled person to wander or run away from a caregiver or environment.
Elopement is mostly studied in children, but the world turns, autistic children become autistic adults. How does elopement manifest in adulthood? Why do we run?
1) We are looking for a safe place from sensory or social overstimulation.
2) We are in psychological pain, and since there is no immediate salve for psychache, we try to outrun it.
3) We saw something that interested us and went to investigate, but since our brains are wired uniquely from NTs, we didn’t consider that the NT would expect us to tell them where we were going and what we were up to.
If elopement is something that is currently bothering an autistic for their own personal reasons, an autie might consider monitoring anxiety levels and normalizing the use of a sensory kit. It’s always a good idea to inform loved ones and friends of any tendency to wander. This way, there is no unnecessary panic. As a final word of advice: Always be sure to carry a GPS of some sort, in case of getting lost. We auties have a knack for getting turned-around.