Help: My ASD Child With Anxiety Elopes from School

Dear Rob,

I am contacting you in search of some advice regarding my lad. He’s 13 and in year nine where he is very unsettled at school having returned to sports college after a managed move to another school broke down. He walked out of school due to what we think is bullying starting from other kids. He has been to the doctors several times when off school, sometimes extending his illness as a means to not to go back. Medication has been given to help reduce an anxiety cough with steroids by both the walk-in center doctor and his own general practitioner who has made a referral. Myself and his mother are besides ourselves thinking he may come to harm if he walks out of school, whilst he is on a part-time basis this week or the unthinkable were to happen if pushing him into a place he doesn’t fit in is too much. 

Please, can you help? 

— Stuart

My ASD Child with Anxiety Elopes from School

Dear Stuart,

Anxiety disorder qualifies as a disability under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Elopement is a serious issue and, under “504,” your child is entitled to have accommodations for his disability. These accommodations may involve anything from your child being properly supervised, to not being forced to speak in front of the class, to being allowed to take a break from his work when he needs to. Be sure to ask your child what would make a difference in his productivity. He may say, for example, that he hates being seated in the front of the class. Well, let’s see how he does if he is seated elsewhere.

Elopement is a serious safety issue beyond school. I work with first responders who are often called when a child runs away from home. If you have not already done so, please register your child with the police. If the police are called, even for another assignment, and know there may be a child in the area who elopes, this information alone may avoid disastrous consequences.

You should also think of attaching a GPS device to your child. There are many ways to do this including sewing the device onto his clothing. These devices may be available at no charge.

Next, your boy can be trained as to what to do if he finds himself in an unknown place. He need not panic and can follow logical steps. He can also carry a card with identifying information on it.

Finally, anxiety disorder or elopement can get better via proper education. Understanding what your child can do for himself in order to get himself under control will give him more confidence and a happier life. Feel free to write “Dear Rob” for further details on any of the above.

Look for Rob’s upcoming book entitled Uniquely Normal, written to help parents make a difference with their children on the autism spectrum. The book comes out November 15.

If you have a question for Rob, please email

This article was featured in Issue 69 – The Gift of Calm This Season

Rob Bernstein

Rob Bernstein, an educational therapist specializing in autism spectrum disorders, gives you hands-on suggestions for handling your child’s behavioral issues. Rob uses a cognitive approach to understand what’s underlying the behaviors so that the issues can be resolved. He has over three decades of experience working with individuals with problematic behaviors including tantrums, repetitive behaviors, self-destructive behaviors, hitting, cursing, miscommunication and non-communication, school issues, and difficulties relating to others. If you have a question for Rob, please email

  • Avatar Sandy says:

    Hi, I know this question is not related to Anxiety, but one of my daughters is also diagnosed with Disruptive Dysregulation Mood Disorder and Conduct Disorder and the school says she does not qualify for an IEP or 504 Plan. Do you have any information on this DDMD and Conduct Disorder that would support an IEP or 504 Plan?
    Thank you,
    Sandy Kimball

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