Fort Worth, Texas,
21
April
2016
|
09:06 PM
America/Chicago

Autism Spectrum Disorder: The need to wander or elope

Study stresses the importance of keeping a watchful eye on children with ASD

More than one-third of school age children with autism spectrum disorder wander away from home, the first nationwide study on the issue shows.

Released earlier this year, the survey looked at more than 3,500 school-aged kids with either ASD, intellectual disability and or developmental delay; and found that children on the autism spectrum disorder were more prone to wander, or elope, from home. Of the parents surveyed, more than 26 percent had eloped in the previous year.

The number of kids who stray from the safety of their homes increases even more dramatically when you look at kids as young as 4 years old and up.

“Elopement is a common and dangerous behavior seen in about half of children with autism,” said Joyce Mauk, M.D., a Cook Children’s pediatrician/CEO and medical director of the Child Study. “It occurs more commonly in children with more severe developmental delays. When this happens it’s of great concern because children can face dangers of drowning or traffic injury when they run away.”

Dr. Mauk says children with ASD most frequently run away from the home, but can escape their caregivers in various community settings. Dr. Mauk says she has seen teen-aged patients run away and cross several busy urban intersections before finally being found. But even when someone tries to help, it may not guarantee safety for the children who have eloped.

“Because children with autism may have poor communication skills, they may not give reliable parental contact information when they are found,” Dr. Mauk said.

Dr. Mauk recommends the following for parents to safe-guard their children with ASD:

  • Use a medic alert bracelet or tag for children who are known to elope.
  • Look into GPS trackers that can be worn attached to shoes.
  • In cases where this is a severe problem of the child bolting from his or her parents, the child may even need to be contained in large strollers when the family is out.
  • At home closed and locked doors are helpful.

But in the end, Dr. Mauk stresses that nothing beats close care-giver supervision.

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