Wandering is perhaps the least understood behavior of autism, and the most dangerous to the person with autism. Before I worked on this issue, I thought back to any instance where I wandered off, and what caused me to do so.
I came up with the three listed in the second panel: Boredom (or lack of stimulation), Interests, and (over) Stimulation.
Boredom: When I get bored, my mind wanders and I start to daydream a lot. This can cause me to miss what’s going on around me, and if I’m walking through a store when it happens (I recall a couple incidents when I was a child and my parents took me shopping with them), I might stop walking or go in the wrong direction.
Interests: If I see something which I find interesting, I might stop to observe or look at it. For instance, when I go hiking, I might stop to look at a cool spider or insect, or try to climb over a tree which has fallen over a stream. In a mall, I might stop and look through the windows of a game shop or sports store. If my parents didn’t keep a close eye on me, I might have wandered into the store. I actually did one time with a bookstore.
Stimulation: If I’m overstimulated in a classroom setting, that’s a recipe for a meltdown (a panic attack is the form my meltdowns often take). In that case, I want to get as far away from whatever is causing the stress and anxiety as fast as possible. Having rules drilled into me since I was introduced to a classroom setting in kindergarten helped to make sure that I didn’t just get up and walk out of the room, but I would often leave a room, and if denied, would come up with as many excuses as it took to get out of the classroom (the one I used the most was asking to go to the nurse, because that usually worked to get me out of the classroom and the stressful situation 99% of the time).
By Nikki J.