Tag Archives: Autism & Wandering

AUTISM & WANDERING – Ways to Evade Tragic Circumstances

It is a known fact that nearly half of children with autism will wander from safe environments. May it be in school, at home or in a day care center, the issue of wandering or elopement always generates a deep level of fear among parents, caregivers, teachers and anyone directly involved with them. One common denominator among wandering cases is that most of these kids are considered nonverbal. They can slip through a crowd unnoticed. This makes the ordeal even more frightening as these kids often do not sense danger.

Likely Causes of Wandering

Children with autism go missing under a variety of situations and circumstances. Some seek places familiar to them or places that pique their curiosity. Places of special interest are bodies of water, a park, and a secluded or enclosed space. Kids on the spectrum may try escaping from overwhelming stimuli such as loud sounds, unusual sights, unfamiliar surroundings, and rowdy activities with other children involved. Sometimes, it can also be triggered with a disruption in their usual routine. There are a thousand and one reasons why these kids wander. As parents and guardians, it is imperative that we find ways to guarantee their safety.

Life-Saving Tips for Parents and Guardians

It is important to assume that your child can go missing. You need to accept the fact that whether you are in the comfort of your own homes or he may be in a seemingly secured school ground, the probability of an autistic child wandering is always there. Your first course of action, however, should be to identify certain risks for your child. Does he or she have a particular interest like a pool or a lake? Does he love vehicles? Do fire trucks and trains make him excited? Bodies of water like lakes, rivers, swimming holes, waterfalls, and so on can easily caught the attention of children as well as teens on the spectrum. As a parent or guardian, you often have first-hand information on certain “risks” that could draw out your child. Identify certain areas in your community particularly those nearest to the places where he is always billeted. This is of utmost importance especially when moving to a new neighborhood where everything can be interesting and trigger overstimulation of his sensory perception.

Inform and Engage

Create an information drive starting from your closest circle of family members, relatives, friends, teachers, and caregivers. Make sure that these people are alerted on your child’s potential interests and attractions. Sharing this knowledge to the people directly involved in his or her activities can be of great help in identifying places and spaces proven to be hazardous to their well-being. In most cases, this will also prove to be the most effective in search and recovery situations.

Reach out to the local law enforcement agency. Ask if they have any program that helps track a child with autism in case of a wandering or elopement incident. Some communities also offer programs concerning safety of children and teens on the spectrum. In some cases, the local law enforcement or a community provides a GPS tracker. Buying one from radio shack or any electronic retailer near you can also be of big help. Charm bracelets or any “wearables” for your child where you can place an identification badge complete with your contact details is also important. Place one also on his or her backpack or pocket for easy identification should they go out and about. Dead-bolts, inside digi-locks, and placing a STOP sign on the inside of your doorways can also help prevent kids with autism from wandering outside your home. If allowed, getting your child a service dog can also prove to be helpful. Be wary of allergies and underlying health conditions though.

In everything else, try putting yourself in your child’s shoes. What you consider the sneakiest idea might have also crossed his or her mind. Fill in the gaps before it happens—and the time is now!

Autism & Wandering – Tips for Community Members

Wandering or elopement is common in individuals with autism. This is more prevalent in non-verbal kids. If you happen to live in a community where autism is present, it is imperative to know precautionary measures should you come across a wandering individual with autism. Unlike atypical kids and teens (or even adults), individuals with autism who wanders are often nonverbal making the ordeal even more challenging. Here are some important tips should you come across one:

  • If you live in a closely-knit community, identify individuals particularly children who have autism. A local autism group often has awareness campaign in the area. You do not have to make yourself a member but, the least you can offer is a considerate and concerned heart.
  • Be reminded that an individual on the spectrum can be resilient and tenacious. They can walk for miles and miles without a care for any impending danger. If you notice a child or teen walking alone, may it be in a secluded place or in a busy street, try asking where he or she is going. If you are disregarded as if nonexistent, try to get someone else’s attention.
  • Your smartphone is a significant tool in helping out. If you come across an individual with autism wandering, take a picture to easily give the law enforcement agency a visual. This will prove to be a great help when looking for missing persons. Instead of blabbering about physical description and outfit worn, you can simply show the picture for the parents or guardians to identify with.
  • Individuals with autism who wander are often non-verbal and non-responsive when being called. They also fear close contact with people they are not familiar with. They can either run or bolt from uncomfortable situations.
  • Talking to others can scare them, too. No matter how dangerous the situation, they can easily bolt to evade you. Be gentle when asking and avoid physical contact at first. Keep him or her in your line of sight.
  • Try to gain their trust first by introducing yourself and then, asking his or her whereabouts. The words “I am here to help you” might do the trick.
  • Again, your phone will prove to be a great help in wandering situations. Whether a child is with autism or not, when alone, it is imperative that you report it immediately to a law enforcement agency. Wait with the child or do not lose the child out of your sight while waiting for the help to arrive.

It takes a lot of courage and compassion not to walk away and ignore warning signs from individuals we meet on the streets. Even more so when we are busy tinkering with our own lives. However, as community members, it is our obligation to at least manifest a sense of concern especially to children with autism. We can divest tragic circumstances from occurring should we at least reach out a helping hand in trying times like this.