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Wandering and Safety

October 19, 2021
Early Childhood, Family Support

Wandering is a serious issue in the autism community. According to the National Autism Association, wandering is the tendency of an individual to leave the safety of a responsible person’s care or safe area, which may result in potential harm or injury. Other names for wandering are running, bolting, or elopement. Here are some tips to help keep children safe. 

  • Ensure that your child is supervised by a trusted adult at all times. 
  • Consider getting your child a tracking device and/or wearable identification.
  • Secure your child’s environment and consider installing alarms, door chimes, and/or deadbolts.
  • Learn what triggers your child to wander and devise strategies to minimize these triggers.
  • Be aware of what your child is wearing when out in the community.
  • Create an emergency plan.
  • Have a recent photo of your child with you at all times.
  • Teach your child skills to stay safe, including learning how to swim. This does not guarantee safety, but it helps.
  • Create social stories to help your child understand how to stay safe at home and in the community.
  • Notify first responders and trusted neighbors of your child’s tendency to wander.
  • Inform school and program staff that your child wanders. This information can be included in their Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) or Individualized Education Program (IEP). If your child is receiving services through the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD), then this information can be included in their Life Plan.