When non-autistic people walk out of their homes, they are “taking a walk” or “walking somewhere” or something like that.

When autistic people walk out of our homes, we are… wandering!

I don’t know what it is that gives people that impression. But I have been accused of wandering when:

  • Taking a walk.
  • Waiting outside rather than inside for staff to show up.
  • Trying to take a bus.
  • Running away from a fight that broke out at a day program.
  • Leaving the room to avoid reacting physically in anger.
  • Trying to escape institutions.
  • Going on long walks to explore the geography of an area.

The assumption in all of these cases and many more is that we are just kind of moving around without any point to it. I suppose this should not be surprising, since most of what we do is described as purposeless and pointless.

If I were to walk out the door right now — walking, without any mobility aids to make people afraid to look at me or whatever it is they do — I bet someone would call the police in a matter of minutes or hours, to report a “wandering” person in their neighborhood. (Possibly more adjectives would be added, such as disoriented and unresponsive to being shouted at. I have also been described by one neurologist as having some sort of unspecified but severe ‘psychiatric issues’ for, after many years of this being the case, fearing it enough to get a Medic-Alert bracelet — something I did on the advice of a disability professional, mind you.)

But it gets even more interesting. I do sometimes do things involuntarily, without knowing why I do them (I assume there is still a neurological purpose to them), and sometimes while very confused. It is at these times — times when the whole concept of attention is often lost on me or the last thing I want — that I am often referred to as engaging in deliberate, “attention-seeking” behavior. And I have seen this same concept applied to other autistics doing the same thing.

Why our behavior is presumed to be the result of purposeless confusion, while behavior toward an identical goal by others is not, is still a mystery to me. As is why, when our behavior does involve some amount of involuntariness or confusion… suddenly we’re “fully aware of our actions and just using them to manipulate people or get out of doing something”.

Not all those who ‘wander’ are lost. Or even wandering.


About Mel Baggs

Hufflepuff. Came from the redwoods. Crochet or otherwise create constantly and compulsively. Write poetry and paint when I can. Developmentally disabled, physically and cognitively disabled. I'm not really part of any online faction or another, even ones that claim me as a member. The thing in the world most important to me is having love and compassion for other people, although I don't always measure up to my own standards there by a longshot. And individual specific actions and situations and contexts matter a lot more to me than broadly-spoken abstract words and ideas about a topic. My father died in 2014 and that has changed my life a lot in ways that are still evolving, but I wear a lot of his clothes and hats every day since he died and have shown no sign of stopping soon.

One response »

  1. I relate to this 100%. I am always getting accused to being manipulative, especially when having speech problems. Always wandering, perhaps they think we are lost souls.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s