There is a lot of news coverage when a child with autism runs away or wanders. Many of these stories, like that of Avonte Oquendo, do not have happy endings. Here are some facts about autism and wandering that parents need to know.
1. Nearly half of all children with autism between the ages of 4 and 10 try to elope or wander off at least once. This rate is 4 times higher than their siblings who do not have autism.
2. Between the ages of 7 and 10, almost a third of children with autism continue trying to wander off. This rate is 8 times that of their siblings who do not autism.
3. Almost 50-percent of children who try to wander are successful. These children are gone long enough to worry parents.
4. Wandering is particularly perilous for children with autism who have little awareness of dangerous situations.
5. One of the biggest risks for children who wander is drowning. From 2009 to 2011, accidental drowning caused 91-percent of deaths of autistic children who wandered.
6. The National Autism Association defines wandering as:
When a person, who requires some level of supervision to be safe, leaves a supervised, safe space and/or the care of a responsible person and is exposed to potential dangers such as traffic, open water (drowning), falling from a
high place, weather (hypothermia, heat stroke, dehydration) or unintended encounters with potentially predatory strangers. Wandering is also referred to as Elopement; Bolting; Running (i.e. “My child is a runner.”)
7. Children wander for different reasons including:
- Getting away from a stressful event or environment
- Going to something that interests them
- Enjoys running
If you have a child with autism, take a look at Nine ways to prevent and respond to autism wandering