Dec 11, 2015

Wandering & Autism: Students Who Flee, Bolt, Run and Elope

Wandering is defined as "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."(awaare.nationalautismassociation.org.) For individuals with autism, sometimes this includes leaving the room or area of the classroom when the adult is not looking or bolting away from an adult who may be holding their hand.




In 2011, a study by the IAN Network discovered that 49% of kids with autism elope or flee from a safe environment. This behavior is dangerous and terrifying to the adults who care for loved ones with autism. With so many individuals doing this, what can the adults in their lives do to reduce, remove or react to wandering?

To begin, people have to understand that wandering occurs throughout all settings, places and environments.  Also, it can happen with any adult present, even the most conscientious person.

So what is a person to do when faced with elopement in the classroom? 


First, tell people to be aware that you have a child in the classroom with a history of elopement. Be sure to do this discreetly so that the child does not hear you or know that you are talking about them.

Second, ask yourself these questions:

Have I created environmental supports that will work to my advantage and minimize the accessibility of the exit?
Did I tell the student where to be?
Did I tell them what activity is occurring using a personalized schedule?
Have I sectioned off areas of the room?
Do I have an adult between the student and the exit at all times?
Have I given the student a meaningful task?
Have I given the student something to hold in both hands that makes it difficult to run?
Have I childproofed the exit?
Have I installed alarms at the exit?
Have I established a code to let others know when the student has exited the room without permission?
Have I established or figured out why the student is trying to leave the area?

Of course due to the seriousness of behaviors, these questions will not be a solution, but at least they will get you thinking about strategies that may work for your student!




 Sample Personal Schedule

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