Wandering Off (Elopement): Things to consider to keep your child safe in your home and community

Nearly half of children with autism have tried to elope or run off. Elopement is when an individual is attempting to leave the safety of a safe area or a person’s care, which could result in causing harm or injury. This could be leaving a classroom without permission, walking out of a playground or house when a caregiver is not looking, or simply running off from an adult.

Why does a child with ASD elope? nationalautismassociation.org

  • Enjoyment of running and/ or exploring
  • Seeking out special interests (i.e., child fascinated with animals, so heads to a zoo)
  • Desire to go to a place he/she enjoys (i.e., playground or park)
  • Escaping a sensory stimulus (i.e., loud sounds)
  • Escaping demands or anxious situations

Having a child wander off can be extremely worrisome for a parent of an individual with autism. They may not be able to communicate their needs, name, address, or phone number, which can make it very challenging for law enforcement or community goers to help.

Tips to decrease elopement: nationalautismassociation.org

  • Always be aware that elopement and wandering can happen at any moment: It is important to remain as free from distractions as you can when you are caring for a child with autism. Extra supervision when you are in new situations, at playgrounds, or family gatherings can help reduce wandering.
  • Secure your home: Having a fence around your yard, a security system, deadbolts on doors, window and door alarms are some ways to secure your home.
  • Teach alternative behaviors: When a child wants something or if they are trying to escape a situation that they are uneasy about wandering can occur. Teaching ways to request and access items or to leave a setting can help decrease eloping.
  • Alert neighbors: Giving neighbors some information about your child can help them be more conscious of your child if they happen to leave your property when you are not around.

Safety Tips to consider (check out these PDF’s from www.autismspeaks.org with fill in the blank forms for your home and community to keep your child safe)

  • Create a Family Safety Wandering Plan: Make sure there is a plan in place for if you have a wandering emergency. The Autism Wandering Awareness Alerts Response and Education (AWAARE) has a simple form that can be downloaded and filled out at awaare.nationalautismassociation.org or can be found at www.autismspeaks.org
  • Keep up to date information cards about your child: These cards can be handed out to neighbors, law enforcement and to businesses in case your child wanders. Include a recent photo and physical description of your child on the card.
  • Consider a tracking device: Tracking devices use GPS tracking or radio frequency to locate individuals. They can be worn on an ankle or a wrist.
  • Consider an ID bracelet or other ID device: Medical ID bracelets or ID devices should include name, phone number, and other important information.
  • Teach Safety Skills: Teaching skills to respond to name and/ or to “stop” can help your child learn to identify themselves and stay safe.
  • Alert first responders: Providing key information to first responders prior to an incident occurring can help them understand how to appropriately respond if your child becomes lost. Some information may include a name, address, phone numbers of family, and any information your feel may be helpful about your child.

It truly takes a village to raise a child. When you child has an autism diagnosis keeping your community aware of what to do in an emergency situation, such as wandering, can make bringing your child home safe that much easier. 

Contact us today to discuss how we can assist with you and your child’s ABA therapy and special needs.