Escape Rooms in Autism

My friends visited here in Denver about two years back. For fun, we tried out an ‘Escape Room’ downtown.

In we went. Two indolent teens were already in there, so I felt the need to assert command, precision, direction — y’know, all those extroverted hyperfocused mission-oriented skills that we autistic people have. I coordinated comms, got everyone thinking out loud, delegated explorers, logically ruling out possibilities, navigating clue by clue.

We did not escape.

I had to leave, but my friends went back afterward to try the rest of the rooms. They escaped from each one and set records along the way.

The lessons for me:

  • I am a part of success when I am apart from it.
  • I’m the rare friend whose absence is appreciated more than my presence.

It is the life autistic. And that is what I am.

Anyway. That’s the snarky angle, a little more scathing than true.

Aside from that, ‘escape rooms’ are essential for us.

I appreciate this fast-closing baby phase with Jo, my youngest. As a veritable scamp, I often whisk her away from the action, as it doubles as an excuse for us to just “find quiet space.”

And I need that.

No, not to escape forever. To pause. To ruminate. To unplug.

I can endure manifold stressors, torrential downpours of noise pestilence, and cavalcades of chaos — as long as there’s an “escape room” to escape to. It resets and benefits, lets the distress seep out, and balances back the unbalanced quiet. It’s why I’ll sooner agree to host than to be a guest or selectively opt into segmented loud and awkward places, as long as I can find a way to tunnel away.

It’ll be nice when we build more “sensory friendly” corners and spaces by design — I don’t think people realize that we need places to pause without it being seen retreating.

We’re normalizing this, turning riot into quiet, making space to rest overspaced minds — and this is good. This is beyond an autism thing, but I’m glad we can lead the way on the why and the where.

For now, I’m at least glad I can take a fussy baby out and find that solace.

With the renewed focus on mindfulness, mental peace, what’s to say that “sensory friendly” can’t be the new “friendly?” Maybe we should be leading the way here? To learn more about autism from an autistic person’s perspective, follow & subscribe to The Life Autistic here and on YouTube — or follow the more whimsical, spontaneous, and amusing content on Twitter / Instagram.

Hey, if you’re still here, would you consider subscribing to my YouTube channel? It’s quickly becoming one of my more impactful vehicles for autism advocacy. It’s unique, fun, and it’s going a little way to help people better understand the ‘different normal’ of autism. Thanks so much!

The Life Autistic: Children are the Best Escape


Here she is – my greatest little escape artist.

Not just on her own, but for my escapes too.

This is Zo, my youngest, most focused, fierce, determined little girl. Don’t let the eyes fool you: it’s a trick to sucker you into letting her get away with whatever she sees fit to do.

I’ve got musings and a half on my kids and on each of them, but for all of her strong-willed excursions and fate-tempting boundary stretches, Zo has been one of my biggest helps lately.

She gives me a focal point when I need an out

Zo’s still kind of a baby, sometimes the youngest in the room. Depending on the awkwardness of the context, I’ll volunteer to feed her or watch her or (try to) keep her from trouble. Otherwise, I’m stuck at a table making eye contact and small talk, and frankly, I’ll take my chances wandering around with the kiddo.

She runs away, so I don’t have to

Zo doesn’t mind being with people, but she’s way more intent to play with things of interest, like cats and playground equipment. On two days in a row, she sneaked away to both, and — hey, she needs adult supervision with cats, claws, slides, stairs, etc., so I can deftly slip away from the people milieu and engage her without needing to justify a people break

When she’s *done* — I can be done too

Sometimes it’s the best to bring Zo along. When she’s done, she is D-O-N-E. Me? I’m a little more subtle with the meltdowns, but Zo is a baby: she tires, gets cranky, decides to stop behaving. And there are days when I’ve just gassed out my social tank, but I know it’s going to be awkward to haul up and leave. But if the baby is hurling and chucking a tantrum? Well then, that’s the socially acceptable queue to get outta dodge.

I know Zo’s going to grow up, get a little more congenial and mingle for much longer than she does now. But I’m going to miss her at this stage, where she’s my perfect accomplice in escapes on The Life Autistic.

The Life Autistic: We Need Exit Strategies

Glass_exit_sign.jpgI completely lost the plot this past Monday.

After just one too many days in a different house, with 10x the amount of people I’m normally around, doing only 5% of what I’m good at, and feeling the walls figuratively closing in, I snapped.

It took me a while to cool off and reflect on where I’d tailspun out of control, devolved into an incorrigible mess, and both shut down and shot back at every living thing around me.

And here I thought I’d become more enlightened this past year, in command of reason, existing in an astral plane above the fray.

But no.

You can’t enlighten your way out of autism.

My attitude is my own, and so are my reactions.

I should have better owned how to handle and navigate around them.

We need exit strategies. 

There are some situations, setups, surroundings where we just can’t simmer down. Too many people. Not enough rooms. Too loud. Too quiet. Too boring. Too busy.

If I’m not doing something I feel has purpose or progress, I get cagey, irritable, and eventually explosive.

If I can’t sneak away and take some quiet time relatively alone to reset, I shake out into a rage.

It’s as if the small pressures build into an overload, a meltdown.

Yes, a meltdown, even as a grown adult.


The Life Autistic sucks sometimes.

I’m embarrassed by not growing out of it, not yet unlocking a level of conquering that makes me feel like I can be above every fray.

And while I’ve worked hard to adapt, some situations shred away the armor, tear off the mask, and goad my core in spiteful reminder that, yes, I’m still much the same Hunter within.

But that is the life indeed.

While I discover the ways through, the ways forward, I’ve always got to keep read the way out. 

Sometimes that’s the only way back in.