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Practical Tips for Parents...
By Lori McIlwain, National Autism Association
As we saw with the disappearance of Avonte Oqeundo in early October, wandering and bolting behaviors can happen in any setting, schools included. The 14-year-old student from Queens slipped away during a classroom transition, leading to a massive search that ended tragically last week when Avonte’s remains were found.
While wandering in general affects 49% of children with autism, tragedies associated with school-related wandering are exceptionally rare. This could be because there are typically less immediate threats directly near school campuses, and because there are naturally more people available to search. Either way, the fear of school-related wandering has left many parents in our community struggling with ways to keep their children safe.
How Often Does School-related Wandering Happen?
Based on a 2012 study conducted by the Interactive Autism Community (IAN) through the Kennedy Krieger Institute, 29% of parents reported that their child wandered from a school or classroom. Because there is no mandate that requires schools to report a wandering or bolting incident, we suspect the actual number is much higher.