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What To Do If Your Child “Wanders”

Submitted by on 11/10/2012 – 9:31 pmNo Comment

Wandering away from supervision is a serious concern for parents of children with autism. A recent study reported that nearly half of all children on the spectrum have “eloped” at least once (Pediatrics, October 2012). Many children with autism cannot tell their name or address and do not recognize environmental dangers. The leading cause of death for children with autism under the age of 14 is drowning and the second is traffic accidents (Mcllwain & Fournier, January, 2012).

A collaboration of six national non-profit organizations created a set of resources to help reduce autism-related wandering incidents and deaths. The Autism Wandering Awareness Alerts Response and Education (AWAARE) Collaboration recommend parents and caregivers implement a “Family Wandering Emergency Plan.” This plan is a q

uick response checklist, with phone numbers and contacts of individuals and organizations that can assist.   They also recommend assembling a “First Responder Notification Form,” for individuals and organizations who may find the child. If elopement also occurs at school, AWAARE suggests parents arrange an IEP meeting to ensure the school has a clear response plan as well. On their website, AWAARE provides an IEP sample letter that will help guide this request.

If your child has limited communication skills and/or a tendency to wander, the AWAARE Website has developed a complete toolkit, materials, and references that will guide you in proactively avoiding dangerous situations. Their “Big Red Safety Toolkit” is available as a free download

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