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Autism File Presents Wandering & Autism Info Practical Tips for Families

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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.

When Does It Happen?
The larger percentage of school-related incidents happen in fall, winter, and spring. Though numbers decrease during the summer, students who attend year-round schools, have an extended school year, or attend summer camps, remain at risk. As with all wandering incidents, the warmer the weather, the more cases there are. Based on anecdotal feedback from parents, school transitions are a prime trigger for wandering incidents, as well as new school environments.
Why Does It Happen?
According to the IAN study, children with Asperger’s were more frequently described by their parents as anxious; while children with autism were described as happy, playful or exhilarated. In either case, wandering was goal-oriented, with the intent to go somewhere or do something. On the school side in particular, we hear from parents that stress, triggers, and overstimulation are key reasons for their children’s wandering, as well as pursuing favorite things or special topics.
What Can Parents Do To Keep It From Happening?  Read more at Autism File Magazine.


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From the Safety Net site:

"The SafetyNet™ Bracelet constantly emits a Radio Frequency signal. Radio Frequency is the technology of choice because, unlike cellular and GPS technology, its signal doesn’t rely on cellular networks or satellite signals and can often be tracked when a client wanders into a shallow body of water, a densely wooded area, a concrete structure such as a garage, or a building constructed with steel.

The Search and Rescue Receivers can detect the Radio Frequency signal emitted from a SafetyNet™ Bracelet typically within a range of approximately one mile in on-the-ground searches and 5-7 miles in searches by helicopter."

I don't know. There are reputable scientists saying that radio frequency radiation may be a cause of Alzheimers and autism. Also, those that live within I think it's 5 miles of a radio antenna have a higher risk of cancer. Does this thing have a radio antenna in it that a child wears? I hope that this is thoroughly vetted before widespread implementation. I wish there was a way to remotely turn the device on and off so that it could be off unless needed.


In my son case he is either trying to escape a stressful situation (running away from) or trying to get to a place of interest. When we are in the store, he wants to run immediately to the toy aisle. I have also seen him run away from situations when he is stressed or there too much noise/activity. Birthday parties are very difficult for him and can trigger bolting behavior.

Roger Kulp

I would be very interested in knowing how much of wandering is "goal oriented",as opposed to wandering triggered by seizures,where the person doing the wandering has no idea where they are,what they are doing,is unable to respond,and has no memory of the episode of wandering.

Is there more than one type of wandering?Does the type of wandering depend on the severity of the autism?What exactly is this "goal oriented" wandering?Is it something somebody has come up with to put wandering in a more positive light,or does this,in fact,describe most wandering?I would love to hear from parents of children who wander about this in the comments here.

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