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Wandering: A Growing and Dangerous Issue for Autistic Children

By HERWriter Blogger
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wandering can be a dangerous issue for autistic children iStockphoto/Thinkstock

In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1 in 88 children has been identified as having an autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

These children are from every racial, ethnic, religious, and socio-economic background. Boys are five times more likely to receive this diagnosis than girls (1 in 54 boys are diagnosed) but girls are still being affected.

While these children and their families have a variety of difficulties to overcome, one growing problem is the issue of elopement, more commonly known as "wandering".

Though little research has been done on this issue in the past, the Interactive Autism Network and Kennedy Krieger Institute published a study in 2011 that found almost 50 percent of children with ASD between the ages of 4 and 10 “wandered” or “bolted” from safe environments.

This behavior can be dangerous, of course, and has been the reason for fatalities in this group of children. Injuries have included traffic accidents and drowning.

In the last year, 10 children with autism drowned after wandering away. The study found more than a third of these children are rarely (or not totally) able to communicate identifying information for themselves when and if they are found.

Though all children have short attention spans and may be at risk for wandering, children with autism may wander to get to something of interest, to get away from something that is scary, like a loud noise, or simply because they are confused.

And for the most part, children with ASD do not possess the verbal skills typical children have to correct the situation once they find themselves alone. These episodes of wandering increase an autistic child’s odds of injury, emotional trauma and death.

Polly Tommey, the Editor-in-Chief at Autism File magazine offered the following tips for parents of ASD children via emailed interviewed:

1. Educate the child.
Explain potential dangers in a way they can understand and teach them what to do if they find themselves lost.

2. Teach the child their name, address and phone number.

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EmpowHER Guest

We started our company because of the tragic incidents that happen to children with Autism when they innocently wander away unsupervised. Our goal was to provide a solution that would let their families at least be able to locate them if they wandered off. It´s called the Pikavu Express Locater and it´s a GPS wristwatch that you can let them wear so that if they do wander off, their position can be located. Please visit www.pikavu.com to see more and help those families that are need of a solution. Regards.

April 26, 2012 - 5:22am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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