The Fear of a lost child: Wandering, Drowning, and Autism a growing concern

lostDrowning as a consequence of wandering has long been a challenge to families whose kids are diagnosed with autism.

Back in 2009 to 2011, statistics show that 91 percent of autistic children aged 14 and below who wandered have consequently drowned. The fear brought about by this problem was further heightened when the body of 11-year-old Anthony Kuznia was found in the Red River, Minnesota recently.

According to the National Autism Association (NAA), Anthony Kuznia joins at least 12 children with autism who have drowned for the past four months in the United States. The frequency of such incident has alarmed not only families and organizations who are directly involved in cases of autism but also a number of people who can relate to the fear of loss.

In the past four years, there are more than 60 documented cases of deaths subsequent or related to wandering, while in a study conducted in 2012, the NAA learned that almost 50 percent of children with autism aged four years old and above who wandered had drowned. Parents of these children also recalled that other attempts of wandering have resulted to traffic injuries.

Experts say that various factors can trigger wandering among children with autism. In some instances, children with autism tend to wander when they find themselves wanting to go to a place, but are incapable of telling this to their parents or guardian. There are cases where wandering happens in an instant, especially when a child feels stressed with his or her present environment.

Organizations concerned with this issue have been trying to come up with programs that can aid children with autism and their families. A significant project, dubbed as the Autism Wandering Awareness Alerts Response and Education Collaboration (AWAARE), was launched in 2010.

In addition to global initiatives such as AWAARE, parents of children with autism continue to find ways to prevent cases of wandering. Some of the most basic preventive measures are installing advanced security systems at home, and having everyone in the house as well as neighbors informed about the possibility of wandering.

Another good measure of keeping the child with autism safe is to teach him or her how to swim as early as possible. As shown in the documented cases of wandering, it seems that children with autism are drawn to water. As Autism Daily Newscast has reported earlier, a tracking device and service dog can also be of great assistance.

The role of parents or guardians of children with autism is crucial during cases of wandering. Usually, children with autism don’t react to normal search and rescue strategies; hence, it is important to establish a healthy relationship between the child and his parent, since the parent will know what would best work for the child in case of emergencies. It will also aid the parent in thinking of possible places where the child would go to. It is also important to keep a note or anything that contain the child’s name and address with the child himself, since many children with autism can’t answer on their own.