Research from the American Academy of Pediatrics and other organizations suggests nearly half of children with autism wander. For children – and many adults – with autism, this act can result in fatal consequences. But now, the Autism Speaks program is spreading the word about wandering, and ways we can prevent it.
To learn more about the dangers of wandering for kids and adults with autism, Steve Adubato spoke to David Kearon. Kearon is the director of Adult Services at Autism Speaks; and a recent guest on One-on-One with Steve Adubato. During his time on the show, Keaton explains what wandering is and why it is so dangerous. He also speaks about the importance of training law enforcement on how to recognize and interact with individuals with autism.
What is Wandering and Why is it Dangerous?
“[Wandering] is more common in childhood; but for some of those folks that behavior will continue into adulthood as well,” Kearon tells Adubato. “People with autism, in some cases have a kind of a lack of appreciation for danger, for their personal safety. And what we know is, unfortunately, 90 percent of deaths that occur as a result of wandering amongst children with autism is due to drowning. So, unfortunately, so many of these episodes end in tragedy.
“What we see in so many cases,” he adds, “are they may go to neighbors’ homes. In most cases, they’re drawn to bodies of water, whether it’s ponds, reservoirs in the neighborhood, neighbors’ pools.”
It is unknown precisely why this is the case; however, since some people with autism are sensory seeking, this may play a role. Kearon believes that Autism Speaks has tools to help prevent wandering; they also provide tools for families and first responders in order to better respond to cases of wandering. He states that it is essential to train law enforcement personnel on how to interact with individuals who have autism. Since so many wander, they often ultimately come in contact with police. This type of training will assist both law enforcement and the individual who is in potential danger.
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Images: © One-on-One with Steve Adubato / Caucus Educational Corporation