6 Safeguards to Implement for When Your Child with Autism Wanders Off

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Most parents do everything they can to ensure that their children remain safe and under adequate supervision at all times. However, there may sometimes be nothing you can do to keep a child from wandering off (or “eloping”), no matter how hard you try. This is particularly the case if someone in your care (whether they be a child or an adult) has autism.

People with autism are often prone to wandering and running away. There may be a variety of reasons why children with autism wander, but some contributing factors are a lack of safety awareness, a tendency to be easily distracted, or a desire to leave a certain situation that makes them uncomfortable. Wandering behavior is exhibited in about half of children with autism, which places them in danger of injury or even death, usually by accidental drowning.

Of course, none of us want to lose track of our children. But in the event that you do, there are some things you can do in advance to help make sure yours gets home safely. Here are some things you may want to add to your emergency plan so that you can be more prepared in the event that your child goes missing.

6. Talk to your child about safety.

Because autism is a spectrum and everyone who has this disorder is different, you’ll have to use your best judgment in giving your child the amount of information and the type of instruction they can handle. But it certainly doesn’t hurt to try to teach your child more about safety, including skills like swimming and safely crossing the street. You may not always be able to keep your child from running off, but perhaps something you’ve said will stick with them and help keep them safe while they’re gone.

5. Get your child an ID bracelet or tag.

Some parents prefer a bracelet or necklace, while others put a keychain or tag on an object the child always carries with them (or write directly on the item). The trick is to attach the identification information to something that will be with the child the vast majority of the time, because you can’t predict when they’ll run off.

The information you choose to attach may include your name, address, phone number, and other clues that will help people contact you if they find your child out and about. You may also want to include the child’s name and the fact that they have autism; this is particularly important for nonverbal or very shy children.


Click “next” below for more ways to keep your child safe in the event that he or she elopes.

Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?
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