According to Autism Speaks, a survey on wandering and elopement was recently conducted with parents of children with autism. In this survey, almost 50% of the families reported that their child had gone missing for long enough to cause a significant safety concern. Clearly, elopement (leaving an area without notifying others), poses a potential danger to individuals with autism.
To further illustrate the danger, parents in this survey reported that over 1/3 of the children who elope are rarely or never able to communicate identifying information, such as their name or phone number. These families also report some "close calls:" 2/3 of parents reported that their children had a close call with a traffic injury and approximately 1/3 reported a close call with a potential drowning incident. (Note: please see last month's issue of Positively Autism for water safety resources).
In addition to the danger to the individuals with autism themselves, 58% of the parents of children who elope reported that this was the most stressful behavior related to their child's autism. Elopement can also prevent families from attending activities outside the home due to fear of the child wandering off (62% of families of children who elope) and can disrupt parental sleep because of fear of elopement (40% of parents surveyed). Despite these family concerns, half of the families of children who elope reported that they had not received any advice or guidance from professionals about how to address elopement.
In this blog post series, we hope to provide some resources to help both families and educators address this important issue.
"New Data Shows Half of All Children with Autism Wander and Bolt from Safe Places" - http://www.autismspeaks.org/news/news-item/new-data-shows-half-all-children-autism-wander-and-bolt-safe-places
"What is Elopement?" by Abby Twyman, M.Ed., BCBA: http://www.autism-community.com/what-is-elopement/