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It’s estimated that one out every 59 individuals has an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and according to a 2012 study in Pediatrics, 49% of children with ASD have a tendency to wander or bolt from safe settings. Individuals with ASD are often attracted to water, yet have little to no sense of danger. Drowning is a leading cause of death in children with ASD.

ASD wandering behaviors happen under every type of supervision and are usually a form of communication — an “I need,” “I want,” or “I don’t want.” Individuals with ASD will wander or bolt to get to something of interest, or away from something bothersome.

  • 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

Take Action in Your Home & Community:

  • Download and begin using your Be REDy Booklet today.
  • Provide a copy of the Be REDy Booklet for First Responders to your local police, fire and/or sheriff’s department. Ask them to implement Reverse 911 in your county and read the included Directive from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
  • Remember: Search Water First!

The AWAARE Collaboration, website and materials were developed by the National Autism Association to prevent wandering incidents and deaths in the autism community.  Please visit the AWAARE website for extensive resources and vital information to keep your loved ones safe.  For additional information, visit our Autism Safety site.

Drowning is the leading cause of death resulting from a wandering incident.  Please click here for a list of YMCA locations that offer special needs swimming lessons, and be sure that your child’s last lesson is with clothes and shoes on.

Download our Caregiver Checklist to help implement wandering prevention strategies in your home.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has recently published an important document for first responders and search and rescue personnel for cases involving an individual with special needs.  Please visit this link, print and share this document with your local police, sheriff and fire departments.

Click here to view NAA’s study released in April 2017: Mortality & Risk in ASD Wandering/Elopement

Click here to view NAA’s 2012 white paper: Lethal Outcomes in Autism Spectrum Disorders – Wandering/Elopement.

Our AWAARE Collaboration partners include AutismOne, Autism Speaks, Talk About Curing Autism, The Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation and The HollyRod Foundation.

Download and print wandering resources in Spanish:

Autism and Wandering Prevention Tips Flyer – Spanish
Autism and Wandering Emergency Plan – Spanish
Autism Elopmement Alert Form – Spanish