Autism Spec­trum Dis­or­der and Risk of Wandering


Autism is a diag­no­sis that can lead to seri­ous health and safety risks. Wandering-related fac­tors, e.g. drown­ing and pro­longed expo­sure, are believed to be among the main causes of death for the autism population.

Picture of Sara L . Henry, MA, LMFT

Sara L . Henry, MALMFT

A Dan­ish study in 2008 showed a mor­tal­ity rate for the autism pop­u­la­tion dou­ble that of the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion and ear­lier Cal­i­for­nia research indi­cates the higher mor­tal­ity rate may be par­tially attrib­ut­able to drown­ing. Unfor­tu­nately, no esti­mates exist and no for­mal meth­ods are in place to track how many chil­dren and adults wan­der into trou­ble each year; how­ever, 92% of par­ents reported in a 2007 National Autism Asso­ci­a­tion (“NAA”) online poll that their child, or chil­dren, with autism have a ten­dency to wander.

Famil­iar­ize your­self with the dan­gers of wan­der­ing and share what you learn with friends, fam­ily and mem­bers of the com­mu­nity. Pre­ven­tion mate­ri­als, include this gen­eral brochure pro­duced by AWAARE (Autism Wan­der­ing Aware­ness Alerts Response Edu­ca­tion Collaboration).

The NAA has devel­oped a “Big Red Safety Box” for those diag­nosed with an Autism Spec­trum Dis­or­der and at risk of wandering/bolting from a safe envi­ron­ment. The NAA is only pro­vid­ing a lim­ited num­ber while sup­plies last and there is an addi­tional limit of one (1) box per family.

The NAA has been over­whelmed with requests. Their grant fund­ing for this pro­gram has been com­pletely depleted.

Con­tents of the Big Red Safety Box include the fol­low­ing resources:

1) Edu­ca­tional mate­ri­als and tools:

- A care­giver check­list
– A Fam­ily Wan­der­ing Emer­gency Plan
– A first-responder pro­file form
– A wandering-prevention brochure
– A sam­ple IEP Letter

2) Two (2) GE Door Alarms

3) One (1) Who’s Shoe ID

4) Five (5) Lam­i­nated Adhe­sive Stop Sign Visual Prompts for doors and windows

To apply for your Big Red Safety Box, con­tact the NAA.

This does not con­sti­tute med­ical or ther­a­peu­tic advice or an endorse­ment of any orga­ni­za­tion or ven­dor. BE SURE TO ADVISE AND CONSULT WITH YOUR CHILD’S PEDIATRICIAN CONCERNING THE USE OF THIS SAFETY BOX.

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