The Issue of Wandering for Individuals Living with Autism
The issue of wandering for individuals living with autism remains a serious concern for all of us. This year, it appears that more children living with autism are dying from wandering and as a nation, we must address these tragedies. At the Autism Society, we are very concerned about this alarming trend and doing all we can to help support families and individuals who are living with autism.
In conjunction with the Autism Society’s Safe and Sound Initiative, in 2003 Officer Jimmy Donohoe launched the “Take Me Home” program so that children with ASD who wander will be returned safely. Take Me Home is a database developed by the Pensacola Police Department for people who may need special assistance if they are alone or in times of emergency. The system includes a current digital picture, demographic information and caregiver contacts. A police officer can query the database, from their cruiser or back at the station, searching by name or by the person’s physical description. The individual’s record provides the officer the information required to appropriately assist. The system also works in reverse – if a loved one goes missing, their picture and description is immediately available so those searching can make an easier identification.
Take Me Home program has been distributed free of charge nationwide to police departments so that it may be widely available. This type of support is critical so that all law enforcement agencies can assist those who may not be able to communicate or have forgotten their way home.
The Autism Society has been a leader since the 90’s in working with First Responders, launching our Safe and Sound Program in 2005. This program helps First Responders fully understand autism and various other situations requiring an informed and sensitive response, like wandering.
It is a priority of the Autism Society to provide support and guidance to those who are concerned or affected by wandering. Our Autism Source Information & Referral staff stand ready to help. It’s the nation’s oldest, most comprehensive and effective information and support center for individuals and families impacted by autism. Call or email today:
Our trained and certified staff are here to help Monday to Fridays 9 am to 9 pm EST.
Our nationwide network of state and local affiliates provide considerable assistance in your community. You should locate the nearest affiliate for a variety of services and support they provide. You can find a complete listing of our Affiliates at www.AutismSource.org.
In 2011, a study conducted by the Interactive Autism Network through the Kennedy Krieger Institute found that roughly half, or 49%, of children with autism attempt to elope from a safe environment. According to the National Autism Association, between 2009-2011, accidental drowning accounted for 91% total U.S. deaths reported in children with autism ages 14 and younger subsequent to wandering/elopement. Sixty-eight percent of these deaths happened in a nearby pond, lake, creek or river.
If you are a parent or an individual living with autism and want to learn more about wandering and ways to help, please call the Autism Society at 1-800-328-8476 today.