Autism, Fear, & Elopement

Today, I arrived at my daughter’s school earlier than usual. I decided to surpass our normal routine of waiting in the pick up zone and parked my car in the lot. It was one of those days in the Pacific Northwest when the sun was out and temperatures mild. It’s basically mandatory to be outside on these days. OK, I’m exaggerating, but you’re pretty much considered a nut job if you’re not out enjoying it.

So, my son, Pace, and I walked around the neighborhood and soaked in the sun. A few minutes after noon, we greeted my daughter, Brynn, right outside the school’s front doors. It was a very welcomed surprise for my girl. She gets such a kick out of the little things. It’s a delightful quality.

Brynn and I were heading towards the car when Pace had different plans and headed towards the playground designated for the preschoolers.

When I asked him to come to me, he predictably asserted his dominance, ahem stubbornness, and plopped down on the ground. With my patience running thin, I marched towards him to scoop his little booty up.

As soon as I approached him, a boy came running from behind the school. He was fast and smiling ear to ear. He was having a great time, but the poor teachers running behind him were not.

I saw a look I’m very acquainted with.


Fear he would run into busy traffic.

Fear they wouldn’t be able to keep up.

Fear for the potential danger he was in.

Thankfully, due to our change in routine, I was right there. I could stop him, and I did.

I don’t bring this up for a pat on the back. I did what anyone would do if they were standing where I was. It’s human instinct and I was thrilled I could help.

In that brief moment, I witnessed the familiarity of fear in the teacher’s eyes. I suddenly didn’t feel so alone.

Our fear derives from Brynn’s frequent elopement attempts.

You might question the use of the term elopement.

No, our daughter isn’t running off to get secretly married.

In the context of Autism, it refers to an individual with cognitive challenges or special needs who wanders or runs away from a safe place or environment.

Unfortunately, we experience this kind of elopement on an almost daily basis. We have caught Brynn half way out of our second story windows far too many times. I’ve chased after her repeatedly. We have extra locks on our doors she can’t reach…yet. It’s only a matter of time before she figures it out. We have extra locks on our windows as well. My husband spent a Saturday constructing gates for our windows, so they can be opened safely during the spring and summer.

It’s exhausting. She really can’t be out of my line of sight for more than 15-30 seconds. She acts fast and attempts escapes in the snap of a finger.

This obviously makes EVERY outing stressful. I’ve tried the dreaded “leash,” but she panics as I try to put it on her. I make her hold my hand, but she tries to get away most of the time. She’s incredibly strong. Her body is 70 pounds of pure muscle and it’s becoming immensely difficult to keep her safe.

So, on top of my existing fears, I fear for the future.

How will I keep her safe when she’s stronger than I am?

I hope and pray someday my face will not portray the constant fear and dread I live in.

4 thoughts on “Autism, Fear, & Elopement

  1. Nicole B. says:

    That sounds supremely difficult. I can’t even imagine. It is good, though, to know you are not alone. To know that others deal with it too, but it does not help solve the dilemma. I hope you can find a solution to keep her safe as she continues to grow, and to lower your fears.


  2. Megan @ Ginger Mom and Company says:

    I can’t imagine what you’re dealing with. My children aren’t autistic and I still go into full-on panic when they run off. I do pray that your fears can be put to rest (if only a bit) as she gets older. Sending you hugs and support, for what it’s worth.


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