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Tools Give Families Peace of Mind When Children with Autism Start Wandering

Parents who have a child with autism know their job is harder than the average mother or father. In addition to dealing with sensory issues, routines, and therapy, many children with autism have a habit of wandering. Despite the parents best efforts to keep eyes on the child at all times, it only takes a second to lose track of them.

Several years ago, a family in rural New York State was working hard to keep their son safe. The mother was sitting out on their porch, vigilantly watching her five-year-old son play. Seeing he was deeply occupied in the sandbox, she ran inside to use the restroom, but when she returned he was nowhere to be found. After calling and looking, neighbors started helping in the search and eventually the police joined in. The child was found over a mile away from his house, taking mail out of the mailboxes on an adjacent road. Thankfully, this story had a happy ending.

Recently, another family had a similar experience. At a New Year’s Eve gathering in a Philadelphia suburb, a mother suddenly realized her autistic son was missing from the house. He had wandered off on a cold night without his coat and shoes, and despite a massive effort to find him, he had fallen in a nearby canal and drowned.

Parents of children with autism have this very real, constant fear in the back of their minds all the time. It’s extremely stressful to know that in the time it takes to answer a phone call or visit the restroom, you could lose your child. This stress takes a toll on families, and in many instances, is the cause behind the high divorce rate.

There are tools to help these families who have wanderers. The first line of a defense is just a simple fence. A fence creates a safe space for a child with autism to go outside and explore within a set boundary. The child is kept safe and parents have peace of mind.

In more extreme instances, and when children have additional medical concerns, a service dog can be a literal lifesaver for these families. Through intense training, these dogs predict seizures and protect children when they occur. The dog knows how to diffuse the child’s aggressive or overwhelmed emotions, and will also help prevent wandering, or help locate the child if he does get lost.

Wandering is a serious problem in children with autism, but there are tools to help keep them safe. Unfortunately many of these solutions are too costly for families who are already under financial strain. To find out more information or to give to families who desperately need these tools, contact us.

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