Wandering Off Puts Autistic Children in Danger, Study Finds

A new study shows that children with autism spectrum disorders often put themselves in danger by wandering off from home, stores and even classrooms.

In fact, nearly half of 1,367 families surveyed in a new study reported that their child had tried to wander alone at least once after the age of 4, according to a press release from the American Academy of Pediatrics. The study was published in the online edition of Pediatrics, the journal for the AAP.

Of the children who went missing, 316 were gone long enough to cause concern. In more than one-third of the cases, the police were called. Children frequently had close calls with traffic injuries and drowning.

About half of the parents said their children had wandered off because they were “focused on an intent to go somewhere or do something,” the news release states. Fixty-six percent of parents said “elopement” was one of the most stressful autistic behaviors. Only half of parents had been counseled on how to prevent or address the behavior.

The study was conducted by the Interactive Autism Network at Kennedy Krieger Institute.

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