Wandering

This post is going to focus on one of my worst fears with Reine…..WANDERING.

For some reason, the topic of wandering and autism is not discussed with many families of children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder by their physician, therapist, or diagnosing doctors. 

But it needs to be. Here’s why…..

What is wandering? 

Wandering is defined as when a person, who requires some level of supervision to be safe, leaves a supervised, safe space and/or the care of a responsible person and is exposed to potential dangers such as traffic, open water (drowning), falling from a high place, weather (hypothermia, heat stroke, dehydration) or unintended encounters with potentially predatory strangers.

You will also hear wandering referred to as:

  • Elopement
  • Bolting
  • Runner

3 Classifications Of Wandering.

• Goal-directed wandering: Wandering with the purpose of getting to something (water, train tracks, park, an item or place of obsession, etc.)

• Bolting/Fleeing: The act of suddenly running or bolting, usually to quickly get away from something, a negative reaction to an event, anxiety, fear, excitement, stress or uncomfortable sensory input.

• Other: Nighttime wandering; wandering due to disorientation, boredom, transition or confusion; or individual simply becomes lost.

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AUTISM-WANDERING STATISTICS

Missing children with autism and other developmental disabilities do not fit the current criteria for AMBER Alert.

Let that sink in for a second. I will repeat that sentence again for you.

Missing children with autism and other developmental disabilities do not fit the current criteria for AMBER Alert.

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Because children with autism are often challenged in areas of language and cognitive function, it may be difficult to search for them, or teach them about dangers and ways to stay safe. 

  • Nearly half of all children with Autism Spectrum Disorder will wander at one point or another, regardless of the type of adult supervision. This is nearly 4x the rate of those not on the spectrum.
  • More than 1/3 of those that wander are not able to communicate their name, address, or phone number.
  • In 2009, 2010, and 2011, accidental drowning accounted for 91% total U.S. deaths reported in children with an ASD ages 14 and younger subsequent to wandering/elopement
  • 2 out of 3 of elopers reported their missing children had a “close call” with a traffic injury
  • 32% of parents reported a “close call” with a possible drowning
  • Wandering was ranked among the most stressful ASD behaviors by 58% of parents of elopers
  • 62% of families of children who elope were prevented from attending/enjoying activities outside the home due to fear of wandering
  • 40% of parents had suffered sleep disruption due to fear of elopement
  • Children with ASD are 8x more likely to wander between the ages of 7 and 10 than their typically-developing siblings
  • Half of families with elopers report they had never received advice or guidance about elopement from a professional
  • Only 19% had received such support from a psychologist or mental health professional
  • Only 14% had received guidance from their pediatrician or another physician

Wandering usually happens because the child has….

  • Found something of interest such as water, a park, train tracks, an animal, or object.
  • They may love adventure or just running in general.
  • They may also be trying to escape or to get away from something that is over stimuli, such as loud noises, commotion, or bright lights, too many people.

Dangers associated with wandering include but are not limited to….

  • Drowning
  • Getting struck by a vehicle
  • Falling from a high place
  • Dehydration
  • Hypothermia
  • Abduction
  • Victimization
  • Assault

According to Autism Wandering and Elopement Lethal Outcome Cases during the years 2009-2011

  • Accidental drowning accounted for 91%
  • 68% died in a nearby pond, lake, creek or river
  • 23% were in the care of someone other than a parent
  • Lethal outcomes in ASD wandering/elopement in girls were twice as high than in boys.

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Ways To Prevent Wandering.

  • Have an emergency plan in writing, laminated, and always at the ready.
  • Have your child take swimming lessons with an instructor that specializes in training those with special needs.
  • Seek out the root cause of your child’s wandering and create strategies to help prevent the need to wander.
  • Teach your child about dangers.
  • Use social stories to teach your child important information about themselves and those that live with them.
  • Create a detailed wandering log if your child has had any previous wanderings. 
  • Get your child an ID bracelet.
  • Check to see if their is a First-Responder Facilitated Tracking Program in your community.
  • Install door and window alarms for your home.
  • Use Shoe ID tags.
  • Look into Guardian Locks
  • Temporary Tattoos for outings
  • Get to know your neighbors. Ask them to notify you IMMEDIATELY if your child is seen in the neighborhood without an adult present.

Please know that even with all of the above things in play, you can NEVER let your guard down in regards to wandering. There is no peace of mind or guarantee that any of these things in part or whole will stop your child from wandering or save their life.

The day Reine was diagnosed with ASD and SPD, I purchased an ID bracelet that I could customize to suit her and that she could wear 24/7. After searching for several days online, I chose Road ID for her bracelet. They offer different ID options. Most with customizable plates and badges. The one we chose for Reine is a silicone bracelet with a customized removable plate and mini badges. She LOVES the fact that she can change out the bands. I LOVE the fact that they are durable, have not molded, shrunk, ripped etc.  

I finally had to replace the customized plate on her ID bracelet this past week. It lasted from October 2014 until February 2015 with her wearing it 24/7.

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I am in NO way affiliated with Road ID nor was I compensated in anyway by Road ID. I just seriously LOVE their bracelets!

Want to see where I got my info on wandering from? Check out these sites…..

awaare
iacc.hhs.gov
pediatrics
missingkids
google

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