Wandering

Wandering

When someone leaves a safe area or a responsible caregiver (CDC, 2019). When a child wanders, they usually get injured or harmed in one way or another.

 

According to the Pediatrics Journal 2012, 50% of children on the autism spectrum wandered off from common places like home, school, or another safe place at least once after they turned 4 (Hyman & McIlwain, 2019)

Preventative Strategies:

  1. Always keep doors & entrances locked at all times.
  2. Keep house keys out of your child’s reach.
  3. Adult supervision at all times for children with special needs.
  4. Have an information kit about your child (e.g. ID bracelet with name and parent’s contact details).
  5. Have your child wear a GPS tracker that is similar to a watch. 

Key Safety Skills to Teach Children on Safeguarding 

 

  1. Communication – children learn to request to go out or go wherever they wish to go.
  2. Boundary rules – ”No Go” zones (Click Here to refer to the previous lesson), or “only with an adult”
  3. Stay With Me – teach children the skills to stay with the accompanying adults when they are out and about.
  4. When you get lost – teach a child what to do when they get separated by their carers.
  5. Make emergency phone calls – for children who have a higher level of comprehension. 
  6. Life skills (e.g. swimming to prevent risk of drowning in the even that child falls into a pool)

 

All the above mentioned skills can be taught through social stories and/or a video model. Initially you may need to break the skill down and prompt your child for the right response. You can gradually fade the prompts when your child gets more fluent with each skill. Don’t forget to reinforce and reward your child after each attempt, and make sure you are giving it enough practice! 

Reactive Strategies

The moment you realise your child is not with you: 

 

  1. Immediately alert other adults to help search for your child as soon as possible.
  2. Immediately go to any water areas (e.g.: swimming pools, fountains) and also to your child’s favourite location.
  3. Alert the authorities.

Your Turn

After ensuring all preventative measures are in place, check if your child has any tendency to go out of the house on his own.

 

If yes, break down the communication skill of requesting to go out, and practice it with your child.

 

Discuss with your spouse and other family members living in your house on sharing the responsibility to safeguard your child. 

 

Work out a schedule and assignment of family members to run this practice with your child.

References

1. Hyman, S., & McIlwain, L. (2019, December 10). Keep Kids with autism safe from wandering: Tips from the AAP. HealthyChildren.org. Retrieved January 1, 2022, from https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/Autism/Pages/Autism-Wandering-Tips-AAP.aspx
2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019, September 18). Disability and safety: Information on wandering (elopement). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved January 1, 2022, from https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/disabilityandsafety/wandering.html
3. Kay, S. (2020). Teaching children with autism about safety. Expert Columns: Teaching Children with Autism About Safety. Retrieved January 1, 2022, from https://www.mayinstitute.org/news/acl/asd-and-dd-child-focused/teaching-children-with-autism-about-safety/