National Autism Association Announces Second Launch of “Big Red Safety Box” to Combat Deaths In Autism Community

Boston, MA – In an ongoing effort to combat the rise in wandering-related tragedies and deaths within the autism community, the National Autism Association (NAA) announced today its second launch of “The Big Red Safety Box,” a program that provides free toolkits to caregivers with an at-risk child or adult.

Similar to wandering behaviors in the Alzheimer’s community, wandering/elopement, or “running,” behaviors in children and adults with autism have led to countless tragedies across the country. In 2011, preliminary data from an Interactive Autism Network study found that:

  • Roughly half, or 48%, of children with autism attempt to wander/elope from a safe environment, a rate nearly four times higher than their unaffected siblings
  • More than one third of ASD children who wander/elope are never or rarely able to communicate their name, address, or phone number
  • Two in three parents of elopers reported their missing children had a “close call” with a traffic injury; 32% of parents reported a “close call” with a possible drowning
  • Wandering was ranked among the most stressful ASD behaviors by 58% of parents of elopers
  • Half of families with elopers report they had never received advice or guidance about elopement from a professional

Over the last three years, accidental drowning accounted for 91% of total U.S. deaths reported in children with autism ages 14 and younger subsequent to wandering/elopement, according to NAA. Earlier this month, a 12-year-old boy with autism wandered from his Michigan home and was killed after being struck by a vehicle, another common occurrence. “People with wandering tendencies can be gone in the blink of an eye despite even the most diligent supervision,” says NAA President Wendy Fournier.  “It is our hope that these safety boxes will provide the critical support caregivers need to protect their loved ones with autism.”

The Big Red Safety Box includes educational materials, door alarms, a wearable ID, and visual prompts to deter children and adults from exiting their homes. Because at least 18 students with autism were reported missing over the last six months after leaving a school or school bus, visual prompts may also be used for classroom and other non-home settings. This second round of the program will provide 1000 free boxes to 1000 at-risk individuals, and is made possible by the generous support of Autism Speaks and LoJack SafetyNet.

Those diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, and who are at risk of wandering/eloping from a safe environment, qualify to receive a Big Red Safety Box while supplies allow. To apply, click here.  To make a donation, please click here.

About National Autism Association (NAA):

NAA is a parent-run nonprofit organization and the leading voice on issues related to autism safety and crisis prevention. The organization’s 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 on wandering prevention, visit NAA’s Safety Site at, or its sister site at