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New Report Examines Risks of Wandering Among Autistic Children

A new report finds that nearly half of children with autism spectrum disorders are at risk for “elopement behaviors,” including a smaller yet significant population researchers consider at risk for bodily harm due to wandering.

The report, recently published in Pediatrics, assessed the rate at which children with autism spectrum disorders wandered away from their homes. Using a population of more than 1,200 young people – a large majority of them the children of parents involved in the the Interactive Autism Network – researchers found that 49 percent of respondents reported that, at least once, their child had wandered away from home, with 26 percent of respondents stating that their children went missing long enough to cause worries.

According to researchers, children with severe intellectual deficiencies, especially those that do not respond to their names, were the subjects most likely to engage in elopement behaviors. The study said that about 24 percent of wandering young people with autism spectrum disorders are at risk of drowning during such episodes, while 65 percent are at risk of sustaining traffic-related injuries.  

“Anecdotal reports suggest that elopement behavior in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) increases risk of injury or death and places a major burden on families,” the study reads. “These results highlight the urgent need to develop interventions to reduce the risk of elopement, to support families coping with this issue, and to train child care professionals, educators and first responders who are often involved when elopements occur.”

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