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“Lost in Public” Video Helps Parents Keep Their Children Safe

Lost childA newly-launched “Lost in Public” video, produced by the Autism Research Group, demonstrates how to use rules, role playing, and praise to teach children what to do if they get lost.

LOS ANGELES (Nov. 21, 2013) – The Autism Research Group (ARG)  this week launched “Lost in Public,” a five-minute video that instructs children and guardians how to use rules, role playing, and praise to teach children what to do if they become lost in a public setting.

ARG is a nonprofit organization dedicated to using science to help individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). “We study ways to improve the lives of children with autism. One way is by teaching them safety skills, such as what to do when they get lost. We also study the art of teaching – what works, what doesn’t,” says ARG Associate Scientist Ryan Bergstrom, M.A., BCBA.  

”Lost in Public” was filmed on the streets of Los Angeles with Bergstrom as the interviewer and instructor. Bergstrom asks random people what they would teach children to do if they got lost and how they would teach it. The unscripted responses are humorous anecdotes. However, Bergstrom says the video and its lesson are, by no means, a laughing matter.

 According to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children®, the first three hours are the most critical when trying to locate a missing child. The most recent study conducted by U.S. Department of Justice, National Estimates of Missing Children: An Overview (2002) estimates that approximately 800,000 children younger than 18 were reported.

“Lost in Public” video provides an alternative to the commonly-used method of establishing a meeting spot, as a child who is lost and nervous might not be able to find the meeting spot. Instead, it teaches children to do 3 things if they can’t find their parent:

1. Yell “Mom!” or “Dad!”

2.  If that doesn’t work, find a store employee. (If a child can’t find an employee, you might tell him or her to look for a mom with kids.)

3.  Inform the employee that you’re lost.  

Once the child has mastered the rules, families should practice with their child in real-world situations by role playing that they are lost. When the child is successful during the role playing, Bergstrom says it is important to reinforce correct responding with praise or a reward which “seals the deal.”

In 2012, ARG published a study in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis that evaluated how rules, role playing, and praise were effective in establishing help-seeking behaviors in children with autism.  “This video was created not just for families of children with autism but as a tool for all families to use in order to prevent an unfortunate and terrifying incident from occurring,” says Bergstrom.

“Lost in Public” can be viewed online at

 About Autism Research Group
Autism Research Group (ARG) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to identifying, evaluating, and disseminating treatments that make a real, measurable difference in the lives of individuals on the autism spectrum and their families. ARG uses science to improve quality of life for people with autism spectrum disorders and the families who love them. For more information about Autism Research Group, visit:



kim carv

With changing schedules all the time I worry about not being there and what would happen if my daughter wasn't picked up on time. I was thrilled to hear my 7 year old daughter with autism a few days ago tell me the following. ____what would you do if mommy wasn't here to pick you up at ballet? silence. Clara, what would you do? "I would ask another mom and tell her to call you?" But what if they don't have my phone number? I know it: ___________. I was overwhelmed with relief and pride for her. She must have memorized it off the fridge. She also has the GPS bracelet from safety net since she was 5 years old when she left kindegarten orientation and was found walking home on our street by the president of the PSO. She said in response to me asking why she left, 'mom, it should have only been 30 minutes, not an hour'. This way of thinking can get these kids in alot of trouble!


NPR aired a piece last week on autism wandering. Glad the word is getting out on this issue.

NPR: Autistic Kids At Risk Of Wandering: How To Keep Them Safe November 21, 201312:24 PM

"The case of a missing teenager in New York has sparked a national conversation about keeping autistic children safe. Guest host Celeste Headlee learns more from the National Autism Association's Lori McIlwain."

Vicki Hill

I've just been through the terrifying situation of an adult with ASD whom I know being lost. Thankfully, he is now back home with his family after a traumatic experience.

Maybe this video can help young kids; I don't know. But by the time boys are about age 12, they are big enough that strangers don't view them as little kids anymore. They view them as potential trouble-makers and treat them accordingly.

A policeman found Luigi 2 days after he disappeared, but just hours before the missing notice went out. (Yes, a delayed missing person notice...because 28 yo's with ASD don't qualify for Amber alerts or Silver alerts, so he was missing for 48 hours before an alert went out.) But Luigi didn't give his name and ran off into a field...and the policeman left it at that.

When Luigi was found again, more than a week later (after a harrowing time), this time he was put in handcuffs because he didn't give his name! But he finally did give his name and the police realized that they had the missing young man.

Films are not enough. We need an "Amber alert" for missing people with autism.

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