Wandering is a paramount safety concern for families with autistic children. A recent study by the National Autism Association found that nearly a third of reported missing person with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) cases ended in death. Accidental drowning was responsible for over 70% of lethal outcomes, with the highest number of deaths occurring in children ages 5-9.
Furthermore, children with autism may also wonder away from their parents and enter commercial property not suited for autistic children. For this reason, parents should always keep an eye on their young one and always ensure a safe environment. Here are five things parents and caregivers can do to ensure safety for their children with ASD.
Secure the Home
Install locks and alarms on all windows and doors. Make sure the garage door openers are out of reach. Ensure that your yard has a secure fence and that all gates stay securely latched. Parents can also install visual cues like stop signs in potential exit areas, and work with children to slow down or stop on sight.
Dialogue With the School
Parents can request an individual aid for their child, and educate staff on the importance of vigilance and quick response in the event of a missing ASD child. Parents can also work with aids or counselors at the school to tailor a learning plan, so children practice safety skills at school.
Use Personal Monitoring Devices
There are a variety of GPS monitoring devices that parents can use to track their children. Some of these devices will even alert parents when a child goes out of range. Parents can also use medical ID bracelets, wallet cards, and more that enable emergency response personnel to identify the child, understand individual needs, and alert caregivers.
Communicate Clearly & Practice Relieving Stress
Preparing for stressful transitions and situations is half the battle. Parents and caregivers can work together in a tag team system, communicating clearly so that the child is always under purposeful supervision. They can also work with children to practice stress relieving techniques, so children are less likely to leave in unsafe environments.
As the prevalence of ASD rises, it’s important to alert local, statewide, and federal legislation bodie. Wandering-related deaths can be reduced by providing training to first responders and resources to families.
Losing a child due to wandering is a tragedy that no parent should have to endure. Parents can take steps to build a supportive community that understands the danger of wandering for children with autism and work to put safeguards in place to ensure their children’s safety at home and at school.