Safety for Wondering Children

June 21, 2016

He was there one minute and gone the next. You have looked everywhere and no one has seen your child. What do you do? Where do you start? Have you prepared for this moment?

It is a parent’s worst nightmare – a child that can not be found. For parents who have children that wander, the fear is all consuming. A  2012 study found in the Journal of Pediatrics on the behavior of wandering, warns that parents of autistic children need to be even more aware and prepared for the possibility of this occurrence.  This study confirms what many parents know well: wandering by children with autism is common, dangerous and puts tremendous stress on families. Here are some tips and resources to prevent wandering and that gut-wrenching feeling that your child is gone.

Wandering Stats-

  • Nearly half of children with autism engage in wandering behavior
  • Wandering occurs across all settings, under every type of adult supervision
  • Increased risks are associated with autism severity
  • Half of families report they have never received advice or guidance about wandering from a professional
  • Accidental drowning accounts for approximately 90% of lethal outcomes


Prevention Tips –

  • Start at HomeSecure your home as much as possible to prevent a child from leaving your yard and home. Some methods that Autism Speaks recommends includes: installing secure dead bolt locks that require keys on both sides, a home security alarm system, inexpensive battery-operated alarms on doors, placing hooks and eye locks on all doors above your child’s reach, fencing your yard, adhering printable STOP SIGNS to doors, windows and other exits, etc.
  • Consider a GPS Device or ID Bracelet – The technology is out there so we might as well use it to help keep our children safe. Project Lifesaver or LoJak SafetyNet services can provide tracking devices for children who are at high risk for wandering. Talk to your local police department about what might be available in your area. Medical ID bracelets can be a lifesaver as well. It can include your name, telephone number and other important information.
  • Inform Others – Let your neighbors, police, fire and EMT services know about your child. Knowing your neighbors can help reduce the risks associated with wandering. Informational handouts should include all pertinent information and be copied and carried with caregivers at all times.
  • Teach your Child to Swim – With accidental drowning accounting for approximately 90% of lethal outcomes, swimming lessons have become more important than ever for children at high risk for wandering.