Defying The Spectrum

Nearly Half of Children Diagnosed With Autism Wander-Defying The Spectrum

Nearly Half Of Children Diagnosed With Autism Wander – Autism Acceptance Day 8/30 2017



Similar to wandering behaviors in seniors with dementia or Alzheimer’s, children with Autism are prone to wandering away from a safe environment. Unfortunately, many cases end in tragedy.



Wandering is the tendency for an individual to try to leave the safety of a responsible person’s care or a safe area, which can result in potential harm or injury. This might include running off from adults at school or in the community, leaving the classroom without permission, or leaving the house when the family is not looking. This behavior is considered common and short-lived in toddlers, but it may persist or re-emerge in children and adults with autism. Children with autism have challenges with social and communication skills and safety awareness. This makes wandering a potentially dangerous behavior.

Wandering may also be referred to as Elopement; Bolting; Fleeing; Running.


  • Nearly half of children with autism engage in wandering behavior
  • Wandering occurs across all settings, under every type of adult supervision
  • Increased risks are associated with autism severity
  • Half of families report they have never received advice or guidance about wandering from a professional
  • Accidental drowning accounts for approximately 90% of lethal outcomes



Drowning; Exposure; Dehydration; Hypothermia; Traffic Injuries; Falls; Physical Restraint; Encounters with strangers; Encounters with law enforcement.

1. Stop to help

2. Seek police

3. Stay and Wait


Click to view 60 second PSA: Autism & Wandering Video


60 second PSA: Autism & Wandering Video

I created the infographic below on Autism and Wandering. Please feel free to post it to social media, print out and display, and even forward it to any professionals or parents that support children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Autism Awareness creates Autism Acceptance.


The National Autism Association has created two digital safety toolkits that can be downloaded:


Caregiver Toolkit | First Responder Toolkit

Take Action in Your Home & Community:
  • Download and begin using your Big Red Safety Toolkit today.
  • Provide a copy of the First Responder Toolkit to your local police department. Ask them to implement Reverse 911 in your county and read the included Directive from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.
  • Remember: Search Water First!


Learn more about NAA’s Big Red Safety Box program. Click for details.

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