Action Alert: Educate Your Community on Wandering

Posted by on Oct 8, 2012 in Featured | 4 comments

Action Alert: Educate Your Community on Wandering

A study published today in Pediatrics shows that half of children with autism wander from safety.  Please see the press release below and help get this important information out in your community by taking the following action: 

Step 1: Google:  News Desk + Your City

Step 2: Note the Email/fax/phone numbers of the media outlets that come up in your search.

Step 3: Email or fax the media outlets the press release printed below, along with a personal message. Feel free to use the sample message on this page.*

Step 4: If you wish, call the media outlet to follow up. If interested, you may be asked to share your personal story, or provide the name of someone who would like to share their story.

*Sample Message:

Good Morning. 

New research findings published today in Pediatrics show that half of all children with autism wander away from safe settings. I am a local parent of a child with autism, and the wandering issue has directly impacted my family. Because this issue has very little awareness, yet tragic consequences, it is my hope that these critical new findings are shared with our community. According to the National Autism Association, more children with autism have died this year following a wandering incident than the last two years combined. For those in our area who may have a child or adult with autism — or encounter a missing person with autism — information provided by your media outlet could be crucial in bringing a child with autism home safely. Thank you for your consideration. 

Your Name


October 8, 2012

Findings Published Today In Pediatrics Show Half Of Children With Autism Wander From Safety

Boston, MA – A new study published today in Pediatrics found that approximately half of children with autism wander from a safe setting, a rate nearly four times that of their unaffected siblings. The study, conducted by the IAN Project at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, is the first research effort to scientifically validate that elopement is a critical safety issue for the autism community. Advocates hope its findings will lead to much-needed safety measures and support for families struggling with the issue.

The study’s key findings showed that:

  • 49% of children with autism wander/elope from safe settings
  • More than one third of children who elope are never or rarely able to communicate their name, address, or phone number verbally or by writing/typing
  • Two in three parents report their missing children had a “close call” with a traffic injury
  • 32% of parents report their missing children had a “close call” with a possible drowning
  • Wandering was ranked among the most stressful ASD behaviors by 58% of parents of elopers
  • 62% of families with children who elope were prevented from attending/enjoying activities outside the home due to fear of wandering
  • 40% of parents had suffered sleep disruption due to fear of elopement
  • Half of families with elopers report they had never received advice or guidance about elopement from a professional

In 2010, the National Autism Association (NAA) sounded the alarm on the wandering issue when it made a statement before a federal committee outlining the need for wandering data and federal resources. “We began seeing a rise in wandering incidents and fatalities,” says NAA President Wendy Fournier.

According to NAA, accidental drowning caused 91% of wandering deaths from 2009 to 2011, and 23% of total deaths happened under the care of someone other than a parent. “This is not a ‘bad parenting’ issue,” says Fournier. “We hear from parents who sleep next to their child’s bed at night, or in front of the door. They live in constant fear of the worst.”

Fatalities in 2012 have doubled those of last year, and in the last two weeks alone, three children and one teenager with autism have died after wandering from safe environments. “Children with autism are drawn to water,” says Fournier. Fournier’s daughter wandered from her home in 2009 to seek out a neighbor’s pool. “Thankfully, our neighbor quickly spotted her and brought her home safely,” she says. “Out of the six locks on our front doors, our daughter is now able to get through three. Like most parents in the community, we remain on high alert 24/7.”

To combat wandering deaths, NAA created the AWAARE Collaboration, along with the Big Red Safety Box program – an initiative that has shipped over 5,000 free safety kits for autism families. For more information, visit


Founded in 2003, the National Autism Association is a parent-run advocacy organization and the leading voice on urgent issues related to autism safety, abuse, and crisis prevention. Its mission is to respond to the most urgent needs of the autism community, providing real help and hope so that all affected can reach their full potential.  For more information, visit


Media Contacts:
Lori McIlwain (919) 741-1646
Wendy Fournier (401) 835-5828



  1. My 9 yo grandson climbed out a window. His parents were running errands. His 18 yo brother and 16 yo sister were there. The 12 yo sister noticed him missing and phoned her parents. Later he said he went out the window so they wouldn’t see him. He was heading for a major traffic area. It was at night. You can imagine all the things that went through our minds. A car stopped and the man talked to him. My grandson told him that he had had a hard day. The man was his cub scout leader. He brought him home. God watched and protected my dear boy the whole time he was out. I talked to him about it a few days later. I told him I knew what he had done and that it had us all worried about him. I said it was not a good thing to do and not to do it anymore. He smiled and said I know I won’t. They are escape-proofing their house so it won’t happen again.

  2. I am finishing my personal count of wandering cases reported in the news since my daughter’s death to include adults. Very true there isn’t an age limit. Will send these findings to local news and all in the Oklahoma area since OK government officials refused to listen to me after my daughter died. Awareness needs to be wide spread!

  3. Non-verbal children with autism who wander become non-verbal adults with autism who still may wander away from safety. I recently removed my 23 y old non-verbal daughter with autism from an adult day program because they were unwilling to alarm building exits. These exits were unmonitored. Clients served by the program moved through the building with & without supports. Program administrators felt that it was more important to foster “growth and independence” in their clients, then to assure their safety. Please remember to highlight this very serious safety concern for our loved ones as they transition into adulthood. I hope you will gather wandering statistics for adults with autism as you continue this work.

  4. Please, let’s not forget when these articles are written, that there are multitudes of Adults with Autism. Some of them will also bolt or wander, especially when overwhelmed. Thank you.

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