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MSM Covers Autism Wandering: 60 Children Dead in 4 Years

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Thank you to National Autism Association for spearheading this important article in the mainstream media about autism and wandering.   The NAA Conference is this November in St. Pete Beach, FL and features special guests Jac and Chris Laurita, autism parents and Real Housewives of NJ stars.

By DAVID CRARY AP National Writer
August 11, 2013 (AP)

The 3-year-old girl wandered away from her grandmother's home in Wareham, Mass., in mid-April. A frantic search began almost immediately, and within an hour little Alyvia Navarro was found unresponsive in a nearby pond. She was pronounced dead the next day.

A month later, across the continent, a larger search unfolded over three days as hundreds of emergency service personnel and volunteers fanned out around Clearlake, Calif., looking for 9-year-old Mikaela Lynch after she vanished from her backyard. The outcome grimly echoed the Wareham search: A dive team found Mikaela's body in a muddy creek.

The two girls were the first of at least 14 children with autism known to have died this year after slipping away from their caregivers. All but one of them drowned, evidence of a fascination that many autistic children have with water. The body of the latest victim, 11-year-old Anthony Kuznia, was found Thursday in the Red River after a 24-hour search near his home in East Grand Forks, Minn.

The tragic phenomenon goes by various names — wandering, elopement, bolting — and about half of autistic children are prone to it, according to research published last year in the journal Pediatrics. 

That would be a huge number. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated last year that 1 in 88 children are affected by autism, and a federal survey this year pegged the prevalence rate at one of every 50 schoolchildren — more than 1 million children in all.

Wandering has led to the deaths of more than 60 children in the past four years, and the fear of it can make daily life a harrowing, never-let-your-guard-down challenge for parents. Read the full story HERE.

How do you manage wandering in your home?

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I wanted to let people know that there is a radio frequency tracking device available called SafetyNet by LoJack. You can learn more at www.safetynetbylojack.com

Used alarms, double key deadbolts and yes, even padlocks. Did this for many years , fortunately it is no longer a problem. My ex refused to use anything and there were numerous times she left his house and went to pools and ponds. Lucky she did not become a statistic.

Thanks for posting this! It is ESSENTIAL that all kids and adults with autism get the opportunity to learn to swim (or float) at an early age, ideally immediately upon diagnosis. Parents of newly diagnosed cannot start water safety training early enough!

For some very real, but as yet unstudied reason, water acts like a magnet to many on the autism spectrum. Wandering or elopement + water + no water safety skills = tragedy. Wandering related water tragedies (and there are many) can be avoided. Most Y programs and Special Olympics are a good place to start to ask questions and find adaptive swimming in your area. Don't wait. The "first time" issue can become the worst time.

Dr Stephen Shore, an adult with autism and leader in our community, speculated in a conversation we had regarding safety and risk that it might be the multi sensory nature of water that causes it to be so attractive...it engages all of the senses simultaneously and very fundamentally. How many times have we seen/read about ASD and water obsessions?

For more on autism safety please look thoroughly at the NAA's work or go to www.autismsafetyproject.org

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