PSA: Wandering and autism, it only takes a second

charliesoccere 2

Wandering and autism

If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I went through a difficult moment this weekend. Charlie ran away when we were downtown. He was doing fine, and then he wasn’t. It only took a second for him to take off and cross a street all by himself. I called his name and asked him to stop, but nothing. By the time I caught up to him, he was a few feet away from a very busy intersection. Terrifying. ⁣

We don’t usually go out in busy places for that reason. His wandering scares the heck out of me. A few days have passed, and I feel guilt. I keep thinking I shouldn’t have let go off his hand, even though he was sitting nicely during lunch. I keep thinking I should have taken my flip-flops off to run faster, which didn’t cross my mind in the moment. But I also feel sadness because I wish Charlie understood danger, like Jude does, so we could enjoy these moments like other families, without fear. ⁣

How YOU can help!

PSA: if you see a child running with a mother screaming behind him and struggling to catch up to him, stop the child. I know it can be awkward if they’re just playing, but you could potentially save a life. Better safe than sorry.

Here are more facts from the National Autism Association:

Nearly half of children with autism engage in wandering behavior

  • Increased risks are associated with autism severity
  • More than one third of children with autism who wander/elope are never or rarely able to communicate their name, address, or phone number
  • Half of families report they have never received advice or guidance about elopement from a professional
  • Accidental drowning accounts for 71% of lethal outcomes, followed by traffic injuries at 18%

Other dangers include dehydration; heat stroke; hypothermia; falls; physical restraint; encounters with strangers.

And to parents, look into medical cuffs/bracelets and pins. We have a few.

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Spread the word. 

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  • Reply
    Leah Frances
    2019-09-17 at 11:22 PM

    This is good advice. In the middle of the Orlando airport one of my twins sprinted off. I thrust his brother at my husband and ran behind. But at this point he was 100 yards away heading into a crowded area.

    A bystander used her physical presence to stop him. She blocked his path and distracted him with something in her bag so he stopped. She maintained eye contact with me as I jogged up the ramp. They had a pleasant exchange for a few minutes and then he got buckled into his car seat.

    Since then, I’ve been more willing to grab or block a kid eloping. Before I would have been reluctant to put my hands on a stranger’s child. I am still reluctant. But I’m able to balance that against a parent racing to get their child.

    It only takes a second.

  • Reply
    Autism Forever
    2024-03-27 at 5:56 AM

    This is a terrible dehumanizing advice. You are not Autistic yourself, are you? How would you like to be labeled like a cow for sale? Stopping wandering off neurodivergent person causes them severe harm and can eventually lead to suicide. Of course your child wandered off. Cities and hypersensory perception are not compatible. Do you know how much it hurts to be in the city? How much pain it causes? Leave us alone please. We do not want your company. Wandering off has immense therapeutic and relaxing effect. You walk away from something that hurts you, don’t you? So stop being a hypocrite please. “with mother screaming behind him” – sure make loud noise and worsen sensory overload and social anxiety even more. How very neurotypical. When I was 14 I had a choice – to kill myself or to wander off. I chose to wander off. I walked for three days through forests and ended up in a different country. I returned by myself when I felt like doing so. In your other post you wrote that you make your child greet people. Why? He is not neurotypical. We do not give a damn about social appropriateness and approval of peers. You also wrote that you were afraid that written communication device will make him never speak. Are you joking? what is wrong with never speaking? Spoken speech is not a requirement to exist. Please get over your ableism and stop providing false and harmful advice. Yes I am a Class 3 ASD person born non verbal and apart from you I do know what I am talking about.

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