As parents, we do all we can to make sure that our children understand how to remain safe. What’s “stranger danger”? How do you cross the road safely? How do you ask for help when you get lost or separated? But if your child has autism, you may face additional challenges, such as wandering (also called elopement, bolting, or running).
In a study published by the journal Pediatrics, 49 percent – almost half – of families reported that their child with autism had attempted to elope at least once after age 4. While they were missing, 24 percent of those children were in danger of drowning, and 65 percent were in danger of being hurt in traffic. No one wants to see a tragic outcome for kids who wander.
If you have a child who is a “runner,” we have free information and tools that can help.
- Download our tips sheet on wandering prevention that offers practical ways to help your child understand safety issues and inform authorities about their needs and interests.
- Print and complete the Personal Information Record sheet and share it with law enforcement, your 911 center, and other first-responder agencies. This can help them identify your child and understand how to interact effectively with them.
- ID cards that can be laminated. Teach your child how to carry one to share with a first responder.
- Order our Person with Autism decals for your car and home that help first responders recognize that occupants might not respond in a typical manner.
- Do not isolate yourself: Share and explain autism to your neighbors, family and friends. Share your contact info and ask whether they would be willing to help look if your child wanders. Keep a list of those who say yes.
- Meet your first responders: Take your child to the fire station, police station, and EMS. Share the personal information record with them and introduce your child. This helps your child and the first responders.
- Secure your home: Consider ways to keep your home secure. Examples include a home security system, window locks, door alerts, etc. If your yard is not fenced, you may want to consider that as an option for keeping your child from wandering. If you own a pool, make sure it’s not accessible without adult supervision.
- Working with schools and day cares: Share any concerns about wandering with your child’s teachers. Let them know what you want them to do if your child wanders and make safety goals part of your child’s IEP.
- Teaching your child: Demonstrate and help your child learn safety skills such as what road signs mean, how to cross a street safely, and how to read traffic lights. Identify safe places (such as fire or police stations) in your neighborhood and practice going to them and waiting for help or an adult. Use visual or written cues to teach what to do in different situations, and practice sharing contact information. Teach children who are nonverbal how to carry and show an ID card.
- Attend one of our workshops: We offer a workshop called “Staying Two Steps Ahead: Safety Considerations for Caregivers.” Find the next one on our workshop schedule.
We all want our children to grow up safely. Please contact an ASNC Autism Resource Specialist near you for additional information and resources on this important topic.Tags: ASNC, autism, autism resources, autism society of NC, Autism Society of North Carolina, Autism spectrum, Autism Spectrum Disorder, autism wandering