Wandering, also referred to as elopement or bolting, is a common, dangerous and sometimes fatal behavior. In a recent study, it was suggested that wandering is more prevalent when a child has difficulty understanding danger awareness, strangers from familiar people, and tends to panic when encountering unfamiliar situations or changes in their routine. These deficits are very common in children diagnosed with autism and cause families tremendous stress. BCI wants to offer resources and tips to our families concerned with wandering.
First, due to some recent initiatives there is hope for improvement. On July 15th, 2016 the U.S. Senate passed S.2614, Kevin and Avonte’s Law, legislation that is intended to decrease the fatalities associated with wandering. This bill strives to utilize proven community alert systems for locating individuals who are more susceptible to wandering and support training for first responders and other community officials.
In addition, Autism Speaks awarded a $98,000 grant to Project Lifesaver International. Project Lifesaver utilizes a small wearable locating device that a child could wear around their ankle or as a bracelet. Project Lifesaver not only shortens rescue times, from hours and days to minutes, but also has a 100% success rate! If you are interested, find a project lifesaver near you by clicking here.
Tips to help prevent wandering
Adapted from the Autism Speaks Safety and Wandering Prevention Checklist
From ANY location:
- There is a higher probability of wandering during the holidays, camping trips, transition periods, outdoor gatherings, and following a recent move or new school. Additional tools and information can be downloaded for FREE from
NAA’s Big Red Safety Box. Consider a tracking device, such as Project Lifesaver, or other identification tools.
- Prior to outings read through social stories with your child describing all the rules and parameters.
- Getting your child familiar with school staff early on in the school year is critical to a successful, wandering-free, transition. During a meet and greet with your school, let your child’s teacher know what they enjoy, what could entice them to stay with the group, and what activities may lead to wandering. Also to ensure your child’s safety concerns are a part of their IEP, provide all the necessary information with the School Wandering Alert Letter .
- From home: Secure your home with professional security products found at BCI’s new Amazon store. These safety products will alert you when a door has been opened, such as the GE Deluxe Wireless Door Alarm, or guard windows, such as this Mesh Window Guard by Kidco. Unfortunately, most children with autism are very skilled at disarming safety products. That’s why it is so important to also teach safety behaviors and identify why your child elopes. Behaviors such as following instructions (e.g., come here or stop), engaging in independent play (e.g., completing busy tasks), and responding to “stop” and “go” signs around your home can make a big difference. Remember to discuss safety concerns with your BCI clinician prior to starting any new interventions.
Stop & Go sings to print, cut, and adhere to your doors and windows