How to Keep Your Wandering Child Safe
by Jennifer Gile, OTR/L
Kids Place West Pediatric Occupational Therapist
Wandering is common in children who have Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Approximately half of children with ASD will wander from a safe environment. While this is more common in children with ASD, it can affect other children as well.
Kids wander for several reasons. They may have a goal and want to go somewhere. They may be fleeing from an unpleasant situation. Children can also wander at night time and due to boredom or confusion during transitions.
Use home and personal safeguards, community awareness, and be hyper-vigilant. Securely lock all exterior doors, use bed tents, use baby monitor or camera system, put chimes or alarms on doors and windows, doorknob protectors, place visual stop sign on each exit door, keep keys and garage door openers out of reach, and secure outside gates/fences. The guardian lock can be transported and used on any door. This option is great for traveling (https://youtu.be/zSw93sShQ2g). Wear identification, temporary tattoos, and GPS (alert me bands, keep me safe ID, tattoos with a purpose, safety tat, amber alert GPS, AngelSense, Ice for Autism).
Use the non-emergency 911 to flag your child and provide their information. Alert trusted neighbors and other members of the community. Create an all about me form (www.smilebox.com). Document child’s likes, dislikes, favorite toys, triggers, attractions, fears, how to calm, use few words and visual supports. Work with the child to identify triggers, develop calming techniques and coping strategies. Use social stories about safety (Twigtale.com). Take swimming lessons to decrease drowning risk.
Always call 911 immediately, Provide Elopement Form, search water first, and get the community involved.
You can find all the forms you need in the Big Red Safety toolkit: