Wandering Concerns & How to Help {Autism Awareness Month}

by GfG on April 9, 2014 · 1 comment

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I kicked off Autism Awareness Month last week with a short list of ways you could participate.  I hope you check them out because you are an important part of this month!  Today, I’d like share about a concern in the ASD community: wandering.

autism-awareness GfG

About 49% of people with ASD wander.  What does this mean?

Wandering is the tendency for an individual to try to leave the safety of a responsible person’s care or a safe area, which can result in potential harm or injury.  This might include running off from adults at school or in the community, leaving the classroom without permission, or leaving the house when the family is not looking.  This behavior is considered common and short-lived in toddlers, but it may persist or re-emerge in children and adults with autism.  Children with autism have challenges with social and communication skills and safety awareness.  This makes wandering a potentially dangerous behavior.

 Wandering may also be referred to as Elopement; Bolting; Fleeing; Running.  {From AWAARE.org}

If you are on Facebook, you may have noticed alerts about missing children/adults with ASD shared from friends in your feed.  You may have wondered why there are so many alerts and “missing” children.    Wandering related missings is not related to poor supervision.  Typical children can disappear in the blink of an eye and so can children (or adults) on the autism spectrum.  While parents, care givers, and school staff are vigilant, wandering related disappearances still happen.

One resource is the National Autism Association’s Big Red Safety Box.  NAA’s Big Red Safety Box includes the following resources (take straight from their site):

1) Our Get REDy booklet containing the following educational materials and tools:

    •  A caregiver checklist
    •  A Family Wandering Emergency Plan
    •  A first-responder profile form
    •  A wandering-prevention brochure
    •  A sample IEP Letter
    •  A Student Profile Form

2) Two (2) Door/Window Alarms with batteries

3) One (1) RoadID Personalized, Engraved Shoe ID Tag*

4) Five (5) Laminated Adhesive Stop Sign Visual Prompts for doors and windows

5) Two (2) Safety Alert Window Clings for car or home windows

6) One (1) Red Safety Alert Wristband

Wanderings are serious and just as with elderly adults with Alzheimer’s,  they can happen suddenly and for no apparent reason (meaning, it was a safe situation that the person was typically comfortable in).

Here is how you can help:

If you have a child on the spectrum who has wandering tendencies, here is what (I think) you should do:

  • Have a disappearance plan for if your child goes missing (AWAARE calls it a Family Wandering Emergency Plan).
  • Talk about wandering with your friends, family, and activity people (ex: church Sunday School teachers).
  • Emphasize the need for continual line of sight supervision for those with wandering tendencies.
  • Buy a Big Red Safety Box or download the FREE digital version.
  • Buy window and door alarms from Walmart or someplace similar.
  • If your child disappears: all 911, search the surrounding area first (especially water), implement your disappearance plan.
  • I would suggest taking a photo of your child/family member each time you go somewhere in public using your phone, so that you have the exact appearance for police.   This won’t help from wandering from your house, but it could help for public situations.

Wandering is a serious concern because it only takes one time for it to be fatal.  About 90% of fatal outcomes are accidental drownings.

I found it interesting (and sorta scary) that wandering occurs equally across all settings, not just in large public activities/settings.  It can happen any time with a person who exhibits wandering tendencies.

That makes it very serious.

Check out AWAARE (Autism Wandering Awareness Alerts Response Education)  for more information.  I learned a ton.

autism-awareness 2014 Part 2.


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