Previous studies examining autistic children found that almost half of them had wandered off at least once – many being gone long enough to raise concern. Some had tried to run off multiple times.
The most common places the children wandered from were their homes, their school or a store. Often, the kids usually sought a place they enjoyed, in order to avoid an uncomfortable situation.
Behavior of this kind can be very dangerous, as a child could become injured, accidentally run into traffic or even drown.
For parents who have a child with autism or similar disabilities, it is necessary to take certain precautions to ensure their child’s safety. Here are a few suggestions:
1. Register your child for proper ID through your local police department. There are many police departments that are set up to receive vital information for children with disabilities in case they need to refer to it.
2. Consider DNA registration. While many people debate on the topic of storing children’s DNA, I believe it can be a useful tool for identification. Certain companies will even store your child’s DNA for up to 18 years.
3. Keep your home protected. Keep your son or daughter’s bedroom close to yours, set alarms that notify you when someone opens the door or window, and set up sensor motion lights around the periphery of your house.
4. Consider locator technology. There are GPS devices that children can wear which will help you to identify lost children. A recent story highlighted an autistic child who received the EmSeeQ locator band – a watch-like device that uses cell phone technology to help locate an individual. Other security companies offer a variety of options to help you keep track of your child.
5. Make a diary of places in which your child has shown interest – and keep it updated. Think of specific parks, streams, convenience stores or other places your child enjoys.
6. Talk to your neighbors. Tell them they should feel free to notify you if they see something or if they see your child wandering off. In other words, they should not take anything for granted.
7. Talk to your child’s teachers. When they interact with your autistic child, make sure they emphasize that running off behavior is dangerous. Also make sure that the teachers try to educate the child on some basic identification facts, such as their address or the school they attend.
Remember having an autistic child makes you think out-of-the-box. Understanding your child is vital. It takes not only you – but your entire family to protect them.
Dr. Manny Alvarez serves as Fox News Channel's senior managing health editor. He also serves as chairman of the department of obstetrics/gynecology and reproductive science at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. For more information on Dr. Manny's work, visit AskDrManny.com.