Half of autistic children wander off at least once

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted Oct. 22, 2012

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Interventions are needed to help prevent children with autism spectrum disorders from roaming away and to aid families in coping with such problems, said a study published online Oct. 8 in Pediatrics.

Researchers examined data on 1,218 children ages 4 to 17 with ASD and 1,076 of their siblings who did not have the condition. Participating families were part of the Interactive Autism Network, an online research database and autism registry. They completed a survey that assessed how often their children wander away, when they tend to do so and at what age attempts to roam were most frequent.

Researchers found that 49% of survey respondents said their child with ASD attempted to wander at least once after age 4. Of those children, 53% went missing long enough to cause concern, data show. Among youths without ASD, 13% had ever wandered away (link).

Children who wandered were most likely to do so from their homes or homes they were visiting (74%), stores (40%) and classrooms or schools (29%), the study said. Attempts to roam peaked at 5.4 years and were more common among children who had severe forms of the neurodevelopmental disorders.

More than half of parents whose child wandered described the behavior as one of the most stressful aspects of caring for a child with ASD. Fifty percent of parents whose child had walked off said they did not receive guidance on how to prevent or address that behavior.

Note: This item originally appeared at

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