Why wandering can be dangerous for children with autism

Columbia, Mo. — As authorities continue their search for Jonathan Shay, a 13-year-old boy with autism who has now been missing for nearly two weeks, the incident that saw a whole community desperately looking for the young teen also brings light to the alarming number of children with autism wandering away. According to CNN, wandering has become the leading cause of death among children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Columbia’s Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders says that about 50 percent of children with autism are likely to wander off from safe environments, and their fixation on objects is what’s likely to draw them away. The center also explained that many children on the spectrum are drawn to water and other objects like animals, and that there are different types of wandering. In an interview with Connect Missouri, Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders Training Core Manager Anna Laakman told that there is ‘goal directed wandering’, which is where the child is wanting to go somewhere; ‘fleeing’, where the child does not want to be in their current situation and then another kind of wandering, where the child just likes to run. Melissa Perkins, Jonathan Shay’s mother, said that her son is drawn to both water and animals. Laakman highlighted that between the years 2009 and 2011, 91 percent of accidental deaths in children aged 14 and below who wandered away were due to drowning. She also noted that children on the spectrum are likely to wander in greater distances than the typically developing ones. Laakman recommends that families caring for children on the spectrum would take precautions suggested in some recommended resources listed below, to keep them safe at all times. Tips to Prevent Wandering and additional resources http://www.autismspeaks.org/wandering-resources • Autism Wandering Awareness Alerts Response and Education, includes Big Red Safety Toolkit http://awaare.nationalautismassociation.org/ • National Safety Resources http://www.autismspeaks.org/family-services/autism-safety-project/safety-resources • Project Lifesaver Resources http://www.projectlifesaver.org/ Source: Courtny Jodon: MidMissouri.com: Wandering can be dangerous for kids with autism