Brian Deer at UW-Lacrosse "The future for investigative journalism is very bleak"
Dachel Media Update: 10/9

Findings Published Today In Pediatrics Show Half Of Children With Autism Wander From Safety

Big red box

Managing Editor's Note: Thank you to National Autism Association for spearheading this study so that doctors around the globe wake up to the ravaging effects of the autism epidemic.  We all do our best to shed light on the tragedies (and triumphs) of daily life with a child on the spectrum - but doctors tend to listen best (insert cough here) to formal studies rather than to informed parents. If YOU have a child who wanders - or know someone who needs help in their household, we implore you to visit

Boston, MA – A new study published today in Pediatrics found that approximately half of children with autism wander from a safe setting, a rate nearly four times that of their unaffected siblings. The study, conducted by the IAN Project at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, is the first research effort to scientifically validate that elopement is a critical safety issue for the autism community. Advocates hope its findings will lead to much-needed safety measures and support for families struggling with the issue.

The study’s key findings showed that:

  • 49% of children with autism wander/elope from safe settings
  • More than one third of children who elope are never or rarely able to communicate their name, address, or phone number verbally or by writing/typing
  • Two in three parents report their missing children had a “close call” with a traffic injury
  • 32% of parents report their missing children had a “close call” with a possible drowning
  • Wandering was ranked among the most stressful ASD behaviors by 58% of parents of elopers
  • 62% of families with children who elope were prevented from attending/enjoying activities outside the home due to fear of wandering
  • 40% of parents had suffered sleep disruption due to fear of elopement
  • Half of families with elopers report they had never received advice or guidance about elopement from a professional

In 2010, the National Autism Association (NAA) sounded the alarm on the wandering issue when it made a statement before a federal committee outlining the need for wandering data and federal resources. “We began seeing a rise in wandering incidents and fatalities,” says NAA President Wendy Fournier.

According to NAA, accidental drowning caused 91% of wandering deaths from 2009 to 2011, and 23% of total deaths happened under the care of someone other than a parent. “This is not a ‘bad parenting’ issue,” says Fournier. “We hear from parents who sleep next to their child’s bed at night, or in front of the door. They live in constant fear of the worst.” Fatalities in 2012 have doubled those of last year, and in the last two weeks alone, three children and one teenager with autism have died after wandering from safe environments.

“Children with autism are drawn to water,” says Fournier. Fournier’s daughter wandered from her home in 2009 to seek out a neighbor’s pool. “Thankfully, our neighbor quickly spotted her and brought her home safely,” she says. “Out of the six locks on our front doors, our daughter is now able to get through three. Like most parents in the community, we remain on high alert 24/7.”

To combat wandering deaths, NAA created the AWAARE Collaboration, along with the Big Red Safety Box program – an initiative that has shipped over 5,000 free safety kits for autism families. For more information, visit

Founded in 2003, the National Autism Association is a parent-run advocacy organization and the leading voice on urgent issues related to autism safety, abuse, and crisis prevention. Its mission is to respond to the most urgent needs of the autism community, providing real help and hope so that all affected can reach their full potential. For more information, visit



you have a good point, nonnymouse. Are they (researchers, doctors etc.) that out of it that they need a research article to see this for what it is??!! The teachers, therapists, parents know and maybe there do need to be more movies/presentations as to what autism is for many people.


If doctors and other so-called "professionals" would actually believe parents, this kind of expensive waste-of-money so-called "research" wouldn't be necessary.

This is another one of those absolutely disgusting illustrations of how "the experts" won't believe something (or had no awareness, just as bad) until they read it in a so-called "scholarly journal."

And if this comments sounds like sarcasm toward doctors, all I can say is YOU BETCHA. And it's more than well deserved, in most cases.

But what I don't understand is why some parent(s) have not made a movie, even a short movie, demonstrating this and other autism-related realities.

Obviously the so-called professionals are not doing their job. Parents already have to do most of their job(s). Why not do this part, too?

Carter's Daddy

My son on the spectrum fell into my parents' pool when they had him while my wife and I were out on a date. Articles on this subject always very hard for me to see. It was before his diagnosis but we knew he did not talk and needed constant watching. They were within only feet but when he walks away it goes unnoticed, then he was in the pool. He was not breathing. My dad gave him CPR. They called us and we went to the hospital. When a small child has a near drowning they send 2-3 police cars to force a clear path for the ambulance. It's all very dramatic. He didn't like being handled by all the nurses and doctors. He cried for 4 straight hours starting when he came to beside the pool going all through the hospital time. I remember them asking if he talks. They had a lot of trouble finding an artery to get blood from. My wife was of course beside herself. I don't wish it on my worst enemy. I even hope Brian Deer or Paul Offitt or Matt Lauer or Anderson Cooper never has to go through that.

First do no harm

I'm surprised it's only 50% who wander. I'll bet that figure is a lot higher and that parents under-report.


My son could be calmly walking beside me, then in a split second he has bolted.

I will always wear low heels when I am alone with him to be able to quickly chase him and grab him.

How many mother's have to be prepared to do that with their 10 year old?

Elizabeth Gillespie


Once again my son bolted. This time while we were at fall festival at a State park surrounded by acres and acres of woods. Ugg!! There should be PSA's about Autism Wandering on every channel.

Anne McElroy Dachel

Too often in news reports we're told that kids with autism only have social interaction and communication problems. On news videos we're shown happy, playful kids interacting with a therapist. We not told how vulnerable children with autism are, even ones who may seem higher functioning. Studies like this are critical in letting the public know what autism is really like and what parents need to do to keep their children safe.

Anne Dachel, Media


Well that should answer loudly to the neurodiverse crowd. Having autism IS a problem for many. In fact it is a life-threatening problem.


Wow great article!
Has anybody ever heard of KOULE by Que Innovations? I think it's worth a look if your interested in early child development and or autism therapy! Their website is but I also found them on facebook too? Any thoughts?
Thanks again for the article!

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